In times of stress and national tragedy, the arts can offer a place to turn for emotional healing.
USA TODAY editors and reporters frequently look to entertainment to self-soothe.
As we continue to follow the news around last week's mass shootings in Las Vegas, and the effects of hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, we've compiled our personal recommendations of TV shows, books, music and movies that feel like comfort food in times of crisis.
Finding comfort in the familiar
Many of us have a set of comfort movies — no matter how good or bad — that we can always turn to. Coming-of-age stories instantly cheer me up. They’re predictable, mindless and fun, the antithesis of many current tragedies. It’s the familiarity of characters I grew up treasuring, like Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi, Princess of Genovia (Anne Hathaway) in The Princess Diaries or Lizzie McGuire (Hilary Duff) who remind me of youthful innocence. I’m not saying that I can recite the Lindsay Lohan version of The Parent Trap word-for-word, but I’m not saying I can’t, either. — Anika Reed
It’s nice to find comfort in something nostalgic, but not so nostalgic that it feels dated. That sweet spot for me right now is TV from the 2000s. NBC's The Office is that perfect comedy that's remained relevant, with typical workplace issues like bosses, paper products and finicky co-workers. Who doesn’t like the lovable but bumbling Michael Scott (Steve Carell) or the relationship between Jim (John Krasinski) and Pam (Jenna Fischer)? If I need more than a half hour, I’ll grab an hour-long fun nerdfest like Chuck or Firefly to remind myself of when I was younger and only had a few adult responsibilities. — Jennifer Cohen
Love stories as a palette cleanser
When the world feels in disarray, I scan my DVR for a Hallmark Channel movie. The autumn-themed romances from the network's “Fall Harvest” have been my dose of happy lately. The writing isn’t Oscar-worthy. And the storylines aren’t realistic. (At least I don't believe soulmates are found after a bout of amnesia while stumbling upon a charming New England town.) But the predictability of a happy ending, when the same can’t be guaranteed in life, somehow makes things better. — Erin Jensen
When I need to quiet my mind at the end of a long day of disheartening news, I reach for my Kindle and a romance novel with one of those shameless covers featuring half-naked men and women in period clothing. Focusing on those characters keeps me from rehashing the day's anxieties as I lay in bed. And the genre is no longer limited to your grandmother's crinkled Danielle Steele novels. There's plenty of quality writing coming from smart women: I'm a fan of Monica McCarty and Sarah MacLean (Stanford Law and Harvard graduates, respectively). — Cara Kelly
Escapism via entrepreneurship
In theory, ABC's long-running Shark Tank shouldn’t be soothing — a business-speak bonanza where a panel of millionaires romanticize an entrepreneurial vision of the American dream that I’m pretty sure is a capitalist fallacy. Or maybe I’m just jealous that I didn’t think of a genius squeegee design that could charm Lori Greiner into giving me a QVC segment and a Bed Bath and Beyond display. Shark Tank sells viewers the idea that anyone can build their own way, as long as they work hard. And while that may that may not always work out, I turn to the Tank as an escapist fantasy, a magical room where economic opportunities are as equal and judicious as the strength of the ideas behind them. — Maeve McDermott
When the magic of the world seems to fade, I like to escape to the fantastical lands of Hogwarts and beyond in the Harry Potter series. Whether popping in one of the DVDs or cracking open a book from the original series (because if you’re like me, you have a set of both), you can forget about your worries with the action, romance and humor that fills these nostalgic tales. Plus, it’s nice to escape to a world where good always conquers evil and love can be the answer to everything. — Sara Moniuszko
When there's too much noise and too many headlines, I turn to worlds that are far away. For a real distraction, I watch British series on PBS that prompt me to think about history or try to solve cases: Masterpiece Mystery series Grantchester, Inspector Lewis and Endeavour; and others including Call the Midwife and Vera. When it comes to music, I turn to the familiar on other side of the world and the soothing sounds of fellow Pacific Islander Iz, aka Israel Kamakawiwoʻole. The late singer from Hawaii is known for his version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World. Iz, who died in 1997 at 38, left behind a volume of work that reflects the familiar tropical sounds throughout the Pacific Islands, including my home, Guam. — Lorena Blas
Anyone who came of age in the "I Want My MTV" era can tell you there’s a heck of a lot of happy that can be wrung out of a daily dose of ‘80s music videos, and I gravitate toward the ones with the biggest hair and most blindingly neon clothes. (See also: My college yearbook photos.) Cyndi Lauper, joyously hiccuping her way through her feminist anthem (Girls Just Want to Have Fun). Madonna, writhing poutily on a gondola, wearing her infamous ‘Boy Toy’ belt (Like A Virgin). Bono, with a mullet, of all things (Pride [In the Name of Love]). George Michael (Faith), gloriously alive. Who wouldn’t want to escape to that place? — Kim Willis
Soundtracks in period films — whether lighter (Dazed and Confused, Almost Famous) or darker (Goodfellas, Boogie Nights) — transport me to seemingly simpler times. The backward-looking movies are reassuringly nostalgic by nature; the hit songs provide immediate recognition wrapped in the gauze of hazy memory. If I’m surfing channels, I’ll stop on any of those movies, even if it’s in progress. Over time, songs synced to visuals create a new memory. My favorite: The wonderful contrast of Layla’s wistful instrumental notes playing over Goodfellas carnage, culminating with a dazzling tracking shot into a freezer truck where a dead mobster hangs from a hook. Call me a little sick, but the day’s concerns disappear for a moment whenever I watch that scene. — Bill Keveney
The best cure for the blues? Singing the blues, in public, with hundreds of other music lovers. There's something about freely flailing your limbs, cheering for a musician and waving your cell phone light creates a sense of unity, togetherness and joy. In particular, these touring artists are worth your time: Chance the Rapper puts on an inspiring, spiritual show; Bruno Mars’ impeccable showmanship will have you forgetting your worries; and Lady Gaga’s killer voice and colorful staging will make you smile. — Carly Mallenbaum