Between the ever-present anxiety brought on by the massive existential threat of climate change, the vitriol and anxiety of the presidential primary, and the anxiety of all the coronavirus news, plus the regular flu, which is bad enough — well, that's a lot of anxiety.

It's very easy to feel as if Everything Is Bad.

Because, let's be real, lots of things are bad.

Greetings from my pit of despair, friends!

Now, you know me. I'm not always in the despair pit. I am, at heart, an optimist. A practical one, but an optimist nonetheless. So, between you and me, even though the things we're dealing with seem daunting, I remain hopeful that solutions will be found, some consensus will be reached, and maybe we'll get our collective act together and treat our shared home better.

But, when it all gets to be too much for me, I indulge in some self care. Sometimes that means ignoring the world for a day, because that's what days off are for, or giving myself a manicure, or taking a drive to the coast.

Most of the time, the easiest way to soothe my spirits is to just listen to a good podcast. It's been a little bit since we ventured together into podcast land, so here's what I'm listening to these days, to keep my spirits up and to put a little of that pep back into my step.


1. Newcomers: Star Wars

Since "Binge Mode: Star Wars" has come to an end (if you haven't listened, you should), I thought I'd check out a podcast from some folks on the other side of the Star Wars spectrum: newcomers! I've loved Star Wars since I was a kid, but somehow, there are people out there who have never seen it. Wild, I know. "Newcomers: Star Wars" is hosted by two very funny ladies, Nicole Byer and Lauren Lapkus. They've never seen Star Wars before, so they're diving in. If you need an escape, it doesn't get much better than a galaxy far, far away.


2. Noble Blood

One of my new favorite podcasts, this isn't exactly what I'd call cheerful, but it does cheer me up when I see an update because it's so good! Hosted by Dana Schwartz, this podcast "explores the stories of some of history's most fascinating royals: the tyrants and the tragic, the murderers and the murdered, and everyone in between." I'm a history buff, I've always loved a macabre story, and this podcast is a delightful combination of both. The latest is about King James VI/I and his anti-witch fervor. Other subjects have included "Mad" King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Catherine the Great and Marie Antoinette. It updates every other week, so it's easy to catch up, especially since you won't want to stop listening.


3. Office Ladies

Recently, I also decided to rewatch "The Office." I loved the show when it was on, and, surprisingly, I had actually never done a rewatch! So hooray for having Netflix. And what good timing I have, because now there's a podcast to watch along with! The "Office Ladies" are Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, who played Pam and Angela on the show. Each week, they break down an episode and provide behind-the-scenes information, fun facts and notes. And there are frequently special guests. "The Office" was a hilarious show, and this podcast is so sweet and heartfelt, it's impossible not to feel good listening to it.


4. Dolly Parton's America

I've mentioned it before, but really, if you haven't listened to "Dolly Parton's America," what have you been doing? I was already a fan of her music, and her truly impressive efforts to help children's literacy, but other than that, I couldn't claim to know all that much about Dolly Parton. This podcast explores her beginnings, her music and her philosophies, often through interviews with Parton herself! This is a "9-part journey into the Dollyverse," hosted by Jad Abumrad, creator of "Radiolab." You'll learn, you'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll listen to some great music.


5. Finding Fred

In troubled times, we often see people sharing a quote from Fred Rogers, about "looking for the helpers." Fred Rogers was certainly a helper, and his program, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," influenced and continues to influence generations of people. I used to be glued to the TV, watching this gentle man lace up his sneakers, don a cardigan, and try to help kids like me make sense of our world. Turns out, that childhood adoration never really went away for me, and I suspect it hasn't for a lot of us. The lessons of the neighborhood are ones we should carry into adulthood. "Finding Fred" host Carvell Wallace explores the life and work of Fred Rogers in this 10-part series about what the lessons Rogers taught us "can tell us about how to get by in today's chaotic world."