Psssttt...I'm announcing something fun at the end of this post, but if you just can't keep your pants on in sheer anticipation, you can click here now!
Around these parts (these parts being my blog, my life, and my brain), self-care is a big deal. As far as I'm concerned, if you aren't taking care of yourself, it's going to be pretty damn hard to take care of anyone else, ya dig?
And judge me all you want, but one of my favorite ways to take care of myself when life gets bananas is by watching television. There is just something so satisfying about being able to turn off my brain for a minute and let moving colors and shapes dance in front of my tired eyeballs.
In this day and age, TV as a relaxation method is super accessible. With Netflix and other streaming programs, we have a whole world of critically-acclaimed television right at our fingertips whenever we want it. That said, since there are so many shows to sort through, it can be challenging to determine which will help you relax and which ones are, while phenomenal, going to stress you to the bones (ehem, Breaking Bad).
That's where I come in. I watch a whole frickin lot of TV. I watch so much TV that I started a podcast with my husband to justify our TV viewing habits. And since I'm such an avid television consumer, I have quite a few go-to shows I look to whenever I need to recuperate from this weary world.
Looking for a new self-care show to get obsessed with? Here are a few of my favorites (all of which, by the way, are available on Netflix):
The Great British Bake Off (Or The Great British Baking Show in the U.S.)
Watch this show when you...need to get out of your own head (it's particularly helpful during times of anxiety or when you've pretty much lost all faith in humanity).
You know how a good deal of reality television is dominated by impossibly difficult people screaming things like, "I didn't come here to make friends!" or "PROSTITUTION WHORE-ER!"? While these shows can certainly be a guilty pleasure (or, depending on the program, a sociological adventure), I've found that much of reality TV can end up leaving me feeling overstimulated and slightly on-edge.
But imagine, if you will, a reality show in which the cast is made up of thirteen truly charming and genuinely wonderful human beings -- the kind of people who literally might say, "Perhaps I did come here to make friends!" Then imagine that these thirteen delightful creatures are super British, and on top of that, they are also amateur bakers -- novice, talented individuals who are just trying their best -- in a competition to win...basically nothing. A cake stand. And esteem. That's really it.
THEN imagine that this seemingly mythical reality show is hosted by two brilliant, iconic British comedians, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, who make everyone they encounter feel both delighted and safely amused. Wouldn't you want to watch such a show on a rainy day?
Well, friend, I have good news: this show exists. It's called The Great British Bake Off (or, inexplicably, The Great British Baking Show in the U.S.), and it's everything you need when times get tough.
The reason why I think GBBO is a fantastic show when it comes to self-care is because it's just one of those depictions of humanity that reminds you that people can be good and life doesn't always have to be a competitive, angry, complicated mess. Sometimes, instead, life can just be full of sweet, simple joys like banoffee pie, custard, and human beings just doing their goddamn best.
The show has been running for six seasons in the UK, but we Americans just caught wind of it last fall. Unfortunately, for us in the States, there is only one season available on Netflix (season 5 and it's wonderful), but if you know your way around the sketchy parts of the Internet, there are certainly ways to access the other five seasons. Just saying...
Watch this show when you...need to detach from reality (and laugh a lot).
Remember waking up to watch Saturday morning cartoons as a kid? Don't you miss that feeling? Side note: I used to wake up every Saturday at 6 AM just to catch Recess and Pepper Ann. Like, I did this voluntarily. INSANE.
But anyway, now you're an adult with a job, possibly kids, and a whole heap of responsibilities. Who has time for cartoons?
You do. Or at least you have time for one.
Bob's Burgers is an animated show about the Belchers and their family-owned burger restaurant. It features the comedic talents of H. Jon Benjamin, Eugene Mirman, Kristen Schaal, and so many others (seriously, it's just a huge pile of cameos from all of your favorite comedians).
Obviously, I recommend this show because, hello, it's hilarious, and who couldn't use a good laugh during hard times, right? But more than that, I love Bob's Burgers because it doesn't take its audience down any dark, uber-thought-provoking paths that many other adult animated shows seem to be fond of. While those series definitely have their place and merits (The Simpsons, for example, is one of my favorite TV shows of all time), there is something so nice and fresh about a show with a family that just enjoys each other and has mild adventures from the comfort of their family-owned restaurant.
Plus, Tina Belcher is, in my humble opinion, one of TV's all-time greatest characters and possibly my feminist role model.
Watch this show when you...need to marvel at comedic genius (and feel slightly better about yourself).
Speaking of feminist icons, this list would not be complete without an appearance from this Tina Fey masterpiece. 30 Rock, the NBC comedy that chronicles the life of Liz Lemon, a TV writer just trying to have it all, is my all-time favorite TV show.
All. Time. Favorite. No takebacksies.
30 Rock moves at a pace that is both fast and truly mesmerizing. I have seen each episode no less than twenty times, and I still find myself surprised and delighted by jokes I hadn't quite noticed before.
As a self-care measure, 30 Rock is fantastic in that it helps you escape into a world in which people are these hyperbolized, almost cartoonish versions of the bizarre humans you know in real life. There is Tracy Jordan (played by Tracy Morgan) who lives far beyond the confines of reality and is always trying to fill his home aquarium with sharks. There's Kenneth The Page (Jack McBrayer) who is mysteriously ageless, forever optimistic, and incidentally sporting a Hitler youth haircut. Then there's Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) whose insecurities are so deep that she gets jealous of the soft skin of babies.
And then, of course, there is our star, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey), a woman who eats cheese at home in a Snuggie, wears a one-piece bathing suit as underwear on laundry day, and not only has her fly open, but there is a pencil sticking out of it. Liz will make you feel both understood for the sometimes-mess that you are while also making you feel slightly better that your life is in somewhat of a lesser degree of shambles.
Watch this show when you...feel broken, in need of fixing.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have STRONG opinions about HGTV shows. They all seem to follow a similar theme: need house >> find house >> house is not that great >> fix house >> everyone cries. But some of these shows are so staged and weirdly confrontational (I'M LOOKING AT YOU, LOVE IT OR LIST IT AND HOUSE HUNTERS) that they can be far from relaxing television.
Fixer Upper, however, is the HGTV series that gets it right. The show features Chip and Joanna Gaines, a contractor and a designer respectively, who fix up homes in Waco, TX (btdubs, I used to live there!). Chip and Joanna do this remarkable thing for a married couple on television, something virtually unheard of on a HGTV show: they get along. Like, they seem to actually like each other. And y'all, it is a treat to watch. Truly, these are just good people making dreams come true. Plus, Joanna's design sense is so spot on that every single home reveal is just absolute eye candy.
Oh, and did I mention, one of my dear friends, Kaley, was on the show once? Becaaaaause she super was.
Gilmore Girls (Seasons 1-5)
Watch this show when you...need to be reminded that the problems of life are actually pretty low-stakes (and when you want to escape to a small Connecticut town)
Gilmore Girls, as you likely know, follows mother-and-daughter, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore (played by Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel). Lorelai is a young mom who became pregnant at sixteen-years-old and has since developed a strained relationship with her high-society parents. The two women live in Stars Hollow, a fictional small town in Connecticut, that features colorful and highly-caffeinated characters.
Now, I love this show, but over the years, I've come to realize that Gilmore Girls can be pretty polarizing. Either you love it for all of its fast-talking wittiness or you hate it for its fast-talking incessancy. Either way, you're not wrong.
But here's why I love this show when it comes to self-care: as a viewer, Gilmore Girls transports you to a small-town world where everyone knows your name and no one is forgotten. Everyone gathers every morning at Luke's Diner and spends every major holiday celebrating in the town square. It's just a nice thought.
More than anything, though, I love Gilmore Girls because it's a show that features low-stakes drama. Lorelai is never diffusing a bomb or fighting a White Walker or anything like that. She is simply misunderstood by her parents and feels conflicted in her various romantic entanglements. Rory doesn't have to escape from a moving vehicle or lead an army into battle. She just has to make good grades and figure out how to say, "I love you" to her boyfriend. No big whoop.
It's a good reminder that many of the problems of life are really, for the most part, fairly low-stakes in nature. We like to think that they are big, terrifying, earth-shattering dilemmas, but really, they aren't. Thanks for the life lessons, Gilmore Girls!
OH, but PS. Seasons 6 & 7 are in no way relaxing to watch. In fact, they are super depressing and, at times, lame. You have been warned.
What is your favorite TV show to watch when you need some self-care?
By the way, while we're on the subject of self-care, I wanted to let you in on something pretty crazy exciting that I have in the works that I think you're going to want to take part in...
Friends, I've created a FREE AS ALL HELL email series called De-Funked!
You'll definitely want to sign up for this if --
1. You've lately been feeling like you're in a bit of a funk. Perhaps you've been in a crappy mood or you've been lacking in motivation or you've been feeling a lot like busting some heads and you don't really even know why.
2. You're doing pretty okay, but you'd like to prepare yourself for any future funks that may be coming your way.
3. You enjoy receiving fun emails from someone who has a bizarre sense of humor and who cares about you.
All next week, I'll be popping into folks' inboxes with some encouragement, joy, and a few simple but powerful challenges to help you go from defunct to de-funked (GET IT?! IT'S A PUN! I FINALLY MADE A PUN, MA!)
Sound like your kind of thing? The first email goes out this Monday, June 8th, so be sure to sign up below!