5 Websites to Give You a 5-Minute Break From Pandemic Fatigue

Feel as if the world is whole again

Screenshot via the author

Yesterday, I listened to the radio in Japan for 30 minutes. I also looked out someone’s backyard window in Romania, got a hug from a stranger, and spent a few minutes on the moon.

I did these things thanks to the internet, and I did them because, after nine months of Covid madness, my “surge capacity” has been depleted. Professor Ann Masten from the University of Minnesota explains the term as follows:

Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.

When the virus first hit, I did what most people did: I rallied. I bought masks, stopped seeing people, and started working from home. I adjusted to the new normal, and, for the majority of nine months, that seemed to work just fine. But, as Tara Haelle writes: “How do you adjust to an ever-changing situation where the ‘new normal’ is indefinite uncertainty?”

The answer is, “You don’t,” and so last week, my strong run finally came to an end. I caught myself thinking: “I wish I could go back to the library.” I was sad, disappointed, and furious. Why did Germany handle the situation so poorly? Why do we get stricter and stricter rules, none of which seem to work? How can I go to a pool party in Taiwan but not meet two friends for coffee here? It was a mix of anger and depression, two of the five stages of grief.

Instead of overriding those feelings, I decided to accept them. I was tired — worn out from nine months of surging — and so I let the wave of pandemic fatigue wash over me. For the next few days, I didn’t do much. I mostly ran on autopilot, and, sometimes, feeling melancholic and unmotivated is okay.

When the wrong wires cross and sparks fly in your brain, don’t send more power through the grid. Take out the fuse. Let it cool off before it explodes.

Yesterday, I finally turned a corner — to Reddit where I found a treasure trove of cool websites. Some of them were useful, others too niche for my needs, but a small selection showed me something I had almost forgotten: They made the world feel whole again. They made it seem big and small, active and peaceful, exciting and wholesome at the same time.

Here are those websites. I hope they’ll give you a moment of pandemic relief.

1. Radio Garden

I loved every minute of my trip to Japan seven years ago, and while I can’t go there right now, apparently, I can spin a globe and listen to their radio.

Radio Garden combines Google Earth with radio stations. Each green dot resembles a broadcasting hub somewhere in the world, and it’s fascinating to listen to the radio in unfamiliar places near and far.

I didn’t understand a single word of what the host was saying, but for some reason, it felt reassuring that, despite everything, Shonan Beach FM in Zushi, a small city just outside Tokyo, was still playing. I also found out they love Western Christmas songs as much as, well, Westerners. Tune in to turn off, and let the music carry you away.

2. WindowSwap

Anywhere you can travel looks better through the eyes of those who didn’t have to travel there at all. Exotic restaurant tours guided by locals in remote places are off limits for now, but you can still peek outside their window.

The idea of WindowSwap is simple: Record a 10-minute video of the view outside your abode, then upload it for the world to peer through. Videos are put on loop, and as a user, you can open a random, new window at the click of a button. It’s marvelous.

Screenshot via the author

Without having to wistfully look at flight prices for planes that won’t take off, I can now see the rain pour on Jessica’s pool in Panama, glance at the ocean in the Californian distance, or listen to the sound of the birds over the rooftops of São Paulo.

We’ve stared out our own windows long enough by now, but opening these in your browser, even leaving them ajar in the background, can bring a breath of fresh air to your day — just like a real window.

3. World Cams

A sense of calm and belonging in a place you can’t visit is nice, but where’s the action? At World Cams — don’t worry, it’s totally SFW. World Cams curates live feeds from interesting places around the world.

The obvious go-tos are Times Square, the Eiffel Tower, and Tokyo’s Shibuya crossing, but there’s more! From birds to bars, from trains to trucks, and from airports to aquariums, World Cams has it all. There’s the Las Vegas wedding chapel, the National Corvette Museum (they move cars a lot more than I expected), and, yes, indoor skydiving in Spain.

Screenshot via the author

My favorite feed, however, is the replay of Japanese orbiter SELENE’s images of the moon. Some classical music along with smooth, gliding views of the lunar surface never fail to remind me: I may be stuck behind a screen, but what I can see on it is more than enough to have hope for the future.

4. The Nicest Place on the Internet

You know what’s also in extremely short supply lately? Hugs.

Family therapist Virgina Satir once suggested we need eight hugs a day just to maintain our emotional wellbeing. I doubt it’s a hard number, but it makes sense: Hugs are a fundamental part of the human experience, one of many we’re bereft of right now.

Screenshot via the author

The Nicest Place on the Internet is here to somewhat fix it. Similar to WindowSwap, it’s simply a playlist of short videos made by nice people, offering their help in the form of hugs.

The music adds a nice touch (pun intended), and the hundreds of videos show: You’re not the only one craving a good old lock-and-squeeze.

5. The Quiet Place

Unlike the horror movie sequel which has been postponed as many times as the number it carries in its title, the quiet place I mean offers a few minutes of serenity to anyone willing to press the space bar.

The Quiet Place is a grounding exercise. Through a short conversation between you and the creator, held one line and key stroke at a time, it offers relaxation, centering, and, most of all, a much needed break from your ongoing barrage of notifications.

Screenshot via the author

It felt soothing to “just listen” and take some deliberate rest from the buzzing business of my devices, if only for a few minutes. Fun fact: The project is almost 10 years old and is currently having a resurgence. I can see why, and I plan to revisit on the regular.

When researching surge capacity, Haelle discovered one reason we struggle to adjust to a chronic, painful situation is the concept of “ambiguous loss:”

A loss that’s unclear and lacks a resolution. It can be physical, such as a missing person or the loss of a limb or organ, or psychological, such as a family member with dementia or a serious addiction. Ambiguous loss elicits the same experiences of grief as a more tangible loss — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — but managing it often requires a bit of creativity.

We don’t know how long the pandemic will last, and we don’t know what the world will look like when it fades. Until it does, it is a-okay to occasionally run out of energy — and to use silly yet wholesome distractions to get yourself back on track.

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I write for You. That’s my promise — and the name of my daily email full of inspiration, smart ideas, and emotional support: https://youletter.substack.com/

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