To say 2020 took a bit of a mental toll would be like saying I-70 can get a little congested during ski season: According to a survey from the Colorado Health Foundation, 53 percent of Centennial Staters experienced a rise in brain strain this past year. Because our cerebral software can’t possibly survive another 12 months of that kind of stress, we asked notable locals to share how they achieved serenity during the chaos.

Adam Cayton-Holland

Member of local comedy trio the Grawlix

Illustration by Eric Palma

“My comedy cohorts, Ben Roy and Andrew Orvedahl, and I started a podcast in January called The Grawlix Saves the World, where we try to better the world around us by bettering ourselves. Then the pandemic hit, and it was like, Oh, what timing. We need self-care more than ever! The things I’ve done [on the show] that have helped the most are taking long breaks from social media and meditating—basically, taking 30 minutes to try and just focus on my breathing. Those have been huge for staying calm amidst the madness.”

Adri Norris

One of the artists behind Denver’s Black Lives Matter street mural

Illustration by Eric Palma

“When I have the time, I’ve been doing capoeira—a Brazilian martial art I have often heard people describe as dance-fighting set to rhythm—in Cheesman Park. Physical activity is always invigorating, and it involves a lot of inversion, which helps drain toxins from the lymphatic system. I do it with a group of people, and the social aspect makes me feel better. We do it at a distance from each other, of course.”

Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Author of National Book Award finalist Sabrina & Corina, a collection of short stories

Illustration by Eric Palma

“Relaxing has become a priority for me since the pandemic started. I am working on my debut novel, and de-stressing allows me to be more creative. To help make that happen, I purchased my first, and certainly not my last, pair of tie-dye Crocs, which I wear nearly every day because they are so comfortable. I’m obsessed with the homemade horchata mix from local Cabrona Coffee, and I’ve stocked up on scented candles. I’ve also been teaching more online writing workshops. There’s pleasure in helping others learn and sharing our knowledge.”

Anthony Smith

Owner of TheDenverChefProject, a private chef company

Illustration by Eric Palma

“I’ve tried to have as many little projects and goals as possible. I went to ‘YouTube university’ to learn how to replace some drywall in my house. And I hiked as many fourteeners as I could during the summer. I ended up with around 22 total. Having those short-term things that I’m working to get done has really helped me focus. I love the sense of accomplishment.”

This article was originally published in 5280 Health 2021.
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan
Shane Monaghan is the former digital editor of and teaches journalism at Regis Jesuit High School.