Free and Low-Cost Options to Distract and Calm the Mind

Flat lay of The Vault's On Healing Magazine, It's OK to Feel Things Deeply Book, and an illustrated card that reads You Are Not Alone. Vibrant green plant leaves cover the upper right corner of the image.

Times are tough right now and that feels a bit like the understatement of the century. While we encourage everyone to continue tuning in to the news to ensure you’re adhering to the most recent guidelines and keeping everyone safe, we also know that the ever-changing news cycle can feel heavy. Not being able to share the same space with friends and loved ones can make it all feel even more burdensome. While we reach out to connect with loved ones virtually and turn off the news, distracting and calming the mind in a world that feels overwhelmed with discussion on COVID-19 and its global effects in just about every nook and cranny of our lives is a challenge at best.

While we’ve been working hard to keep this little but mighty business of ours moving along and to continue spreading joy to your households with mailed parcels and contactless porch drop-offs, we’ve found ourselves scrambling at times to calm the mind, remember to breathe, and find some rest. So, for ourselves and our communities, we’ve been gathering tips and tricks from friends, individuals, small businesses, and our very own vendors who are putting in the effort to not only find ways to cope themselves, but to generously share their resources and expertise with others. We encourage you to browse the tips and accounts we’ve gathered below, test them out, and share them with anyone in your network who might be able to benefit. We truly believe we’re all in this together and we thank everyone for their efforts to bring some calm and peace into our lives.

We would also like to note that we recognize these times can be even more of a challenge for already economically, mentally, and physically vulnerable communities and individuals. Whenever possible, if you have the means and time to help in a safe way, please offer a hand.

Physical Supports

Right now, it can be tough to get the exercise your body needs and to create space within. The news feels heavy and the unpredictability of it all can cause us to feel like we’re folding inward. It’s natural, but making space and making moves can help to re-energize the body and show your gratitude for the vessel that keeps you going. 

Free Supports

  • Virtual Dance Breaks: Latin, ballet, salsa, hip hop, Bollywood—there’s a dance class for everyone through Toronto’s City Dance Corps (the same studio that brought us the sold-out Spice Girls classes not all that long ago). Tune into an Instagram Live class at the advertised time (@CityDanceCorps) and join people from across the globe all learning the same routine.

  • Nourishment: Finding your food a little boring? Our friends at Sweat & Soda (@sweatandsoda) in Leslieville have offered up a recipe for kimchi rice full of veggies and pickled eggs if you panic-bought too many and that’s your thing. Our Roncesvalles neighbour The Goods (@thegoodsisgood) has also posted their yummy Be Well Soup and Gateway Green Smoothie to help you get all your veggies in between snacks! See their Instagram Highlights for easy access to the recipe posts. For a little indulgence for the soul, test out Mildred’s Temple Kitchen’s famous blueberry buttermilk pancakes recipe—my absolute favourite pancakes in the city.

  • Slower Movements: Yoga with Adrienne offers a vast library of free flows designed for different needs and levels, including this practice for those coping with anxiety during this time. For those looking to flow with the family, the east end’s Appleseed Yoga for Kids is offering free Yoga Storytime (ages 3–12) and Kids’ Yoga (ages 7–12) on Instagram Live (@appleseedyoga) at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. For those able, Appleseed is currently accepting donations for their free online classes to support their instructors or you can purchase a gift card online for future use.


    Bowl of soup from The Goods in Roncesvalles

    Photo courtesy @thegoodsisgood

    Low-Cost Supports at Scout

    Get kids bending, breathing, and stretching with you with the Kids’ Yoga Deck, that includes playful poses such as cat, flower, airplane, and gorilla, as well as partner poses that can be performed with siblings or friends when we’re done social distancing. Lead a virtual class among your parent-and-tot groups via video chat to give everyone a chance to stretch and socialize.

    For those wanting to take this time to reset and institute some new wellness rituals, the Wellness Planner can offer some sense of control and help you track your habits to see what works, what is really improving your mood, and what you can nix. No pressure at all; simply track and reflect.

    Mental Supports

    There is a lot on the mind right now, from figuring out creative meals with pantry staples to simply creating some structure that resembles normalcy as we hunker down inside—and plenty more thoughts that we needn’t give more energy to here. It’s impossible to avoid them all, but finding a time to try to redirect and calm the mind can be a useful tool to keep the noise at a manageable level.

    Free Supports 

    • Online Meditation Classes: Hoame Meditation, a modern and beautiful meditation studio in Toronto, is offering free meditation classes via Instagram Live (@MyHoame). While the classes are free, the local studio encourages those who can to make a donation to Food Banks Canada in lieu of a class fee. You can also access a little loving kindness meditation practice to breathe out tension and breathe in peace through this post

    • Daily Music Compositions for Meditation: My creative friends Eve Parker Finley (@eveparkerfinley) and Ben Finley (@ben_fin) are posting some gorgeous musical compositions on Instagram that would be the perfect accompaniment to your self-guided meditation or breathing practices.

    • Daily Dose of Mindfulness: A recommendation from a good friend, Michelle Pound, a Toronto-based certified coach and motivational speaker, hosts a free daily dose of mindfulness at 12:30 p.m. on Instagram Live (@MichellePound) and offers mindfulness prompts in her Instagram Highlights. Scroll through and see what speaks to you.

    Low-Cost Supports at Scout

    For those searching for a little solo practice or offline support, we have a few mindfulness options online, including a deck of mindfulness cards for beginners (choose one for the day and snap a picture to share with your friends!) and a guided mindfulness and meditation book for children to help them cope with feelings of anxiousness during this time as well.

    The Rituals book can also help to quiet the mind and instil calm through repeat motions and dedicated moments. This book in particular offers some insight into the historical and cultural importance of rituals, alongside 40 empowering practices to adapt to your current needs—including a candlelight ritual for renewal, a soothing ritual for unwinding, and a tea ceremony for fostering connection and gratitude.

    Emotional and Creative Supports

    As our own Jess K. so perfectly worded it in her most recent blog post, “Creativity is a generative source of energy that gives us the space to slow down, check in, and realign with our pleasure bodies in a meaningful way.” Jess recommends carving out space to dedicate to creativity, whether that be in a journal or a physical space, as well as making space in your schedule. By cultivating creativity, we can provide emotional support to our tired and weighty spirits.

    Free Supports

    • Downloadable Colouring Pages: Colouring offers proven therapeutic benefits, offering a gentle pastime to disconnect and create rather than consume. Scout vendor Stephanie Cheng has created some gorgeous and fun free downloadable colouring pages. Choose from seven designs, including butterflies, wildflowers, social distancing measurements, dogs, and more—or download them all!

    • Music Lessons for the Little Ones: Keep little hands and minds busy learning and creating with Rainbow Songs’ online classes for babies, toddlers, and 2–4-year-olds. Rainbow songs has a new YouTube channel to explore and free Instagram Live singalongs every weekday at 10 a.m. (@rainbowsongs).

    • Read Some Community Stories: Find support through connection and garner inspiration from the experiences of others with a free story from The Vault. Simply choose your story here and enter the code “TAKECARE” at checkout to redeem your free story. The Vault is a Toronto-based independently published zine that works to produce, promote, and distribute the words and creative work of emerging women-identifying artists.

    Splash of Color Painting and Colouring Book

    Photo courtesy of Chronicle Books

    Low-Cost Supports at Scout

    Creativity can also be about carving out space, so take some time to rearrange a small shelf, corner, or room in your home, whatever you can dedicate to the objects that stimulate you emotionally and creatively, and dedicate that space to this task alone—no news enters this space, no to-do lists, just your feelings and your expressions of such. Let emotion flow in this safe, creative space in whatever form they take on, no judgment. Explore and find a creative outlet that works for you. We have lots of options for crafting online, including a gorgeous Splash of Color painting and colouring book and watercolour pencil crayons that I’ll be diving into this weekend. If you’re itching for more stories from The Vault, you can purchase the zines here.

    Financial Support

    The financial climate at this time is perhaps the most stressful and ever-changing for individuals. While there are many support programs in place, things are changing quickly. While we haven’t seen too many financial freebies from Toronto brands or individuals circulating (please share them below if you have seen some!), Shannon Lee Simmons of the New School of Finance (@nschoolfinance) has published a step-by-step emergency money guide to help get us all through this, regardless of your financial situation, available here. The post is updated daily, so bookmark it to check back for the most up-to-date information. For those who might need a little more personalized support for pandemic-specific finance questions, New School of Finance is offering 30-minute phone sessions to address your particular concerns for a cost of $100.

    Hoping to plan for the future? If your finances are looking solid right now but you could use a long-term game plan, check out Shannon Lee Simmons’ book Worry-Free Money. This book takes a fresh approach to finances that ditch traditional budgets and take a closer look at spending pressures, so you can afford your daily coffee guilt-free and be well prepared for retirement with a healthy emergency fund when troubling times hit. Copies are available on our website.

    There are so many creative, generous individuals and businesses offering up their support right now that we just can’t list them all. If you have a tip to share, an account we should follow, and more, we encourage you to post a note below to share with our community. To those mentioned here or those added below, thank you so much for your efforts. You are seen, heard, and oh so appreciated. 

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