Do you ever get so stuck on a feeling that you realize you need a way to ground yourself? I know I do and while I rely on songwriting, prayer, and just plain venting to someone I trust, that doesn’t always help. Sometimes you just need an escape to just sit in the feeling. When the pandemic uprooted all of us, I leaned into my number one tried and true way of grounding myself: going on a drive.

Before the pandemic, I spent at least 2 hours a day in the car just listening to music and processing my emotions. (Yeah, LA traffic did that to me.) I can’t tell you how important it was for me to be my most vulnerable self in my car coming back from work every day.

However, throughout the pandemic, I ended up going on many drives to help ground me as I dealt with anxiety, depressive episodes, heartbreak, and an unprecented hopelessness about everything. Going on a drive to clear my mind brought me so much peace that I kind of relied on it to help me figure things out.

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I wanted to share this playlist of songs that helped me cope with the utter chaos of the last couple years. Hopefully, there’s some songs here that will speak to you too.

Highlights

clementine by Halsey

I was full on still processing a breakup at the beginning of the pandemic. Halsey had also released the beautifully vulnerable Manic. It spoke to me as I drove very close to my former flame’s house. It was then that I realized it was about me and my hang ups just as much as his. Not an easy thing to chew on, my track record of being a people-pleaser.

Repeat by Young the Giant

I viscerally remember listening to this gorgeous song after a month and a half-ish of shutdown and realize that the world felt like it was stuck in a cycle of hopelessness. We just kept spinning on repeat. And for a traditional optimist like myself, it was hard to cling to the light. This song validated that tension I felt.

Every Time the Sun Comes Up by Sharon Van Etten

Mid-pandemic, I was effectively burning out. I already didn’t like my job, but now it felt like I couldn’t leave. Was I supposed to be miserable but at least with a paycheck? Yeah I guess, but I sure wasn’t happy about it. It really felt like every time the sun came up I was in trouble. Some days I wished the sun didn’t come up for me. Yeah, it was that dark.

Blue Lights by Jorja Smith

This song vividly reminds me of June 2020 and the reckoning that America had with George Floyd’s death. I remember driving around listening to this song and just sitting with the indignant feeling that we live in such a cruel world where there’s songs cautioning Black kids to not fear police sirens, to think of them as strobe lights or maybe fairy lights. The sirens in this song got me a couple times as I drove.

homebody by Valley

You wanna talk the extreme loneliness of shutdown, this is your song. I’m traditionally a social butterfly but I found myself growing more introverted during the pandemic. I felt so lonely yet I kept leaving people on read for days, something I never used to do before the pandemic. I used to take pride in responding to people quickly. But the truth is, we all changed so much during the last 2 years and we have to give it space and grace.

I Know The End by Phoebe Bridgers

When I hear this song from Phoebe, I immediately think of the moment I decided to leave my job. It took every ounce of courage for me to conclude that I needed to leave. I felt like I was starting to drive into the sun, where the ultraviolet was covering me up. Like many of my clear my mind drives, I didn’t know where I was going but I was going somewhere. It was euphoric for me to sing along to this one and admit the end of that chapter was here.

Something to Believe by Weyes Blood

This song reminds me of driving through East Hollywood on my way to volunteer on Saturdays and wondering what on earth God had next for me. I had just left my job and was trying to heal from the chaos of my first few years of post-college. Weyes Blood’s ethereal Karen Carpenter-like voice gave me space to sit in that transition.

Don’t Freak by The Aces

Then came Spring 2021, a weird transitional time. I was looking for a new full-time job, volunteering at vaccination clinics, and fighting COVID anxiety as I stepped into the world again. I blasted this song every day as I reminded myself that I had to keep it together, push through, and not let my anxiety get the better of me. Luckily this was a straight up BOP that I could dance to in the car.

simple times by Kacey Musgraves

Now when I had this song on repeat in my car, I looked fine. I had just gotten my job at Output (which by the way, ya girl was featured on the blog 🥰), my health was good, I was hanging out with friends in person more—by all optics I was living it up. BUT, I was crumbling under the pressure of my people-pleasing tendencies. I had struck up friendships with a couple of people who were going through really rough times when I met them and instead of practicing healthy boundaries, I did everything I could to be available for them. I had started therapy at this time too so naturally I was like, “Remember when I was a kid and didn’t have to deal with all this shit? Can I go back to that?”

Talking To Myself by Gatlin

In the later part of 2021, the dichotomy of everything looks fine but inside I’m a mess grew even more stark. I started to feel really lonely as I realized how drained I was from those aforementioned friendships. Things blew up around the holidays for me and it was not fun to deal with the anxiety both leading up to it and following it. This song soundtracked my lonely drives where I felt like a terrible friend for abandoning them and not knowing who I could turn to for help. Not gonna lie, I still feel like this these days and I don’t know how to get out of it.

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