Playlist: Keep Calm And Carry On

It’s nearly December, you guys! Did you hear? If one more person reminds me how quickly the holidays are approaching I’m going to have a breakdown. The prospect of meeting end-of-year deadlines and doing holiday shopping in holiday crowds brings on serious stress, and I suspect I’m not alone in this.

When I get stressed I suffer from sleep paralysis, which is scary and a thing that I like to avoid at all costs. So for me, maintaining a moderate level of chill in the lead up to the holidays is essential. To help with that I’ve compiled a playlist of songs that have an immediate calming effect on my brain and my body. Maybe they’ll help you get through the holiday season too.

This is best listened to on ‘shuffle’. I’ve changed the tracklist at least a dozen times since posting it today.

Keep Calm And Carry On

One Crowded Hour – Augie March
The Lovecats – The Cure
Rosebud – The Jezabels
Tightrope – Janelle Monáe
Run For Love – Joan As Police Woman
Don’t Fight It – The Panics
(Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay – Otis Redding
Sing For Absolution – Muse
Numb – Portishead
Future Starts Slow – The Kills
Everlong (Acoustic) – Foo Fighters
Twilight Galaxy – Metric
The Man Who Would Be King – The Libertines
Indestructible (Acoustic) – Robyn
Don’t Dream It’s Over (Crowded House cover) – Sarah Blasko


Add your favourite calming tracks in the comments below!

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Founding member. Former writer. Still loves Autostraddle with her whole heart.

Crystal has written 320 articles for us.


  1. this playlist is so perfect right now. I am currently on hour three of a twenty-four hour Greyhound bus trip home, and I anticipate SO MUCH STRESS.

    • Oh God. My relatives live a 10 h drive away from us. When I didn’t drive, I’d go into zombie mode (half asleep, half conscious). I’d bring 11 thousand things to do but I’d just kind of sit there and kind of sleep but not really ALL DAY.

      I cannot fathom what 24 hours on a Greyhound feels like but I am actually sending you good thoughts. May you find sleep (and a comfortable postition) so that it goes by faster.

      • thank you! I appreciate the good thoughts. I understand zombie mode perfectly; I may or may not be in it right now. luckily I also have a survival kit of books/music/food/tylenol pm to see me through the rest of this!

    • Oh man I spent a lot of my weekend on a Megabus to and from Cleveland Ohio to Madison Wisconsin…. I feel your pain

  2. I haven’t listened to this yet (I’m sure it’s awesome) but I just wanted to say THANK YOU FOR CONFIRMING THAT SLEEP PARALYSIS IS A REAL(LLY TERRIFYING) THING

    • It’s real! And I’m sort of relieved about that. Before my doctor told me otherwise, I honestly thought a ghost was trying to kill me in my sleep.

      • Oh my god, count me in as someone who has also suffered from sleep paralysis! The first time it happened I thought I was having an aneurism or something. But the ghost description is another accurate feeling.

      • I had it a lot in my 20s – it was freaking terrifying – but not any more, so there’s hope that things may change for you all, too.

        I had no idea what it was at the time, so when I met a guy who knew a lot about lucid dreaming (and lectured on it) I asked him about it. He told me I was possessed. (I am not kidding.) I didn’t believe him, but had a terrible episode that same night, of course, and it’s harder to be rational in that state. Bastard!

  3. Thank you for this. I am very apprehensive about Thanksgiving so I haven’t really been sleeping well.

  4. As someone who nearly told their professor he needed a reality check and is an egotistical cocksucker, I needed this… a lot. So thank you.

  5. Great list, Crystal!

    Andrew Bird is also good to listen to when you need to take a step back from the day. Same goes for St. Vincent. Throw them both together (like in their Soirèe de Poche jam session) and it’s bliss.

    Other tracks that help me derail stress are:
    Wake Up – Sliimy (because it’s too damn cute to keep you buggin’)
    Kilojoules – Freelance Whales
    Penelope – Pinback
    Gold Skull – Miniature Tigers (animal-inspired band names win in my book)
    Mushaboom – Fiest
    Black and Blue – Miike Snow (bands with doubled-up vowels do, too, I guess)
    At the Beach – the Avett Brothers
    Nothing Brings Me Down – Emilíana Torrini (duh)
    DLZ – TV On the Radio
    My Girls – Animal Collective

    Ok…I could keep going, but won’t.

  6. Last time I was really stressed about school I listened to Little Lungs by An Horse on repeat for like a whole day. How could it not destress you? The lyrics are telling you to breathe!

  7. For the first time in my 24 years of life I am: 1) Working on Thanksgiving 2) 500+ miles away from family/friends on Thanksgiving 3) Having the reaction of “Well, shit. What does one do by themselves on Thanksgiving?”

    I feel like maybe this playlist is my answer? New plan: Listen to these songs on Thursday and eat a turkey sandwich. Pow!

  8. I’ve found that a good way to combat sleep paralysis is to think about sex. No really. And then you end up dreaming about sex. And the only bad part about that is that you wake up horny. BUT OH WELL. It takes out the terrifying factor and distracts you from the increasing difficulty of breathing, replacing everything with oh my that feels good.

  9. In dire need of getting out of an immense rage, induced entirely by my completely off-her-rocker ex. This playlist is most definitely helping. *Breathes*

  10. I have listened to this playlist a dozen or so times already. Very good list. I really enjoyed the acoustic Robyn.

    My personal keep calm playlist includes:
    Betty is a Bombshell – Grouplove
    The End – The Lower 48
    Noche Nada – Givers
    Kansai – Ra Ra Riot

  11. I’m late to the party, but right now this playlist is my most beloved #1 playlist that gets me through work. :)

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