“The Good Place and Stress Management” by Lauren Mottel

“The Good Place and Stress Management” by Lauren Mottel

Welcome! Everything is Fine. At least, the latter is what you try to tell yourself as you grapple with a mountain’s worth of papers, homework assignments, and midterm study sessions—to the point where you just know that the “recommended” eight hours of sleep is going to be just  another pipe dream. Even now, with what seems like an eternal loop of “Special Report” coronavirus updates on all the news channels, the combined stress no doubt feels physically and mentally exhausting. We’ve all been there, truly. Nevertheless, those four words are also what greet you when you enter the afterlife, at least according to The Good Place

Written and produced by Michael Schur, famed creative behind The Office and co-creator of Parks & Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place follows the stories of Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), and Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto) during their time in The Good Place, designed by the architect Michael (Ted Danson) and managed by a “Janet” (D’Arcy Carden), a humanoid database of all the knowledge of the universe. However, this takes a turn when it turns out that Eleanor—a supposed death row lawyer but in actuality an “Arizona trash bag”—is placed there by mistake and tries to earn her place there by learning ethics from Chidi, a former moral philosophy professor, while also trying not to blow her cover. 

It’s pretty much common convention that college students are professional binge watchers, capable of watching hours of content within the most unbelievable of time frames (time frames when we really should have been crossing some work off of our agendas, but alas). Regardless, this show is no exception, holding a coveted spot in my top ten list of shows, and there is no better time to chip away at your “To Watch” list than now.  Though I can’t provide much more context aside from this in order to avoid spoilers, the four seasons of The Good Place are designed with the creative precision of a Swiss watch, discussing major philosophical concepts with plenty of quick-witted humor slipped under the door that will make you belly laugh, alongside truly mind-boggling twists and satisfying character arcs. 

The characters and the chemistry they share in particular are what make this show so special to me and many other viewers. The Good Place was my go-to show to watch in the background while I did work/attempted to do work because in trying to manage my school work, I was enraptured by the storyline and found myself picking up on coping mechanisms exhibited by the characters’ personal developments—coping mechanisms that have been helping me from getting quarantine cabin fever during this difficult time. So without further ado, I present The Good Place’s Guide to Stress Management:

Having died in a grocery store parking lot picking up a bottle of “Lonely Gal Margarita Mix,” the self-proclaimed Arizona trash bag that is Eleanor Shellstrop is a stellar protagonist. Despite not having been the best or most extraordinary person during her time on Earth, her flaws are what make her personal development in the afterlife from a trash bag to leader of the Soul Squad all the more valuable. Her “ordinariness,” for lack of a better word, and zeal for finding a hack out of tough situations simply go to show that when faced with extraordinarily daunting workloads this spring semester, there will always be a way to break it down, and there is always more room to grow. Eleanor also taught me that you can’t always shoulder everything yourself; throughout the show, Eleanor gradually shed her isolating defense mechanism and learned to trust and rely on her relationships with Chidi, Tahani, and the others. In all aspects of life, you have to find ways to divide and conquer anything that causes you stress, and if that means asking for help—whether it’s from a friend or an RA or a Munson—know that it’s okay to do so. 

Next on our list is the living embodiment of indecision and stress-induced stomachaches, Chidi Anagonye himself. Chidi has also taught me how to effectively cope with and manage stress by both demonstrating what and what not to do. When it is revealed in the pilot that Eleanor is a fake, she becomes a major source of stress for Chidi as he grapples with his moral obligations to either expose or help her, ultimately choosing the latter. Chidi demonstrates that when faced with a major source of stress, it is best to have the patience to take a step back from the situation to properly assess before moving forward, coming from a logical approach unclouded by frustration—an emotion well-known by late-night patrons of Club Morris, I gather. However, in doing so, it’s important to logically analyze something in moderation, lest you become paralyzed by the gravity of big decisions (or get stomachaches, as Chidi does upon deciding on a type of muffin), like the future of employment and higher education. So when you feel yourself getting particularly short with your friends while studying during a hectic week, it’s important to breathe and take a step back before diving back in, clear of mind. 

Following Chidi, we have Jason Mendoza, the chaotic Jacksonville, Florida dance crew leader of your dreams. Jason may as well be the antithesis to Chidi, having not a single care in the world.  Despite not being the sharpest tool in the shed, over the course of the show, Jason is surprising in making among the most astute and thoughtful observations, as well as finding simple answers to complex dilemmas. This zest for life and simplicity is also important in handling stress during the school year. Despite enduring a grueling week, you can’t expect yourself to be at your best and be on the study grind for all of your waking hours. You also need to find the time to take a break, and for a certain subcategory of those who are mindlessly cramming for an exam: eat. It’s important to remember to take care of yourself, even if that means taking the time to pop an EasyMac in the microwave for a quick snack, calling your parents, or playing a game on your phone for a couple minutes—any kind of break, really—so that you don’t overwork yourself. 

Last, but certainly not least by any margin, is the luxurious socialite and philanthropist Tahani Al-Jamil, famed sister of the acclaimed Kamilah Al-Jamil (to Tahani’s chagrin). The face of opulence, sophistication, and grace, Tahani is ever the portrait of a perfect hostess. With a refined taste for the arts and fashion, as well as a flair for name-dropping celebrities to prove her status (e.g. “I haven’t been this upset since my good friend Taylor was rudely upstaged by my other friend Kanye, who was defending my best friend, Beyoncé”), Tahani is always the first to volunteer to host a party or social gathering, no matter the situation. This value put on the finer things in life is important in that sometimes you really do just have to treat yourself to something nice every now and then, especially during weeks when you feel fried. Rewarding yourself by watching your favorite movie or shopping online can make all the difference in rebooting an overworked brain. 

Having followed The Good Place since its debut, I’ve discovered over the years that the real Good Place are connections you make with other people in your life (or afterlife) and what you make of them. With a strong support system of family, friends, and mentors, you are capable of handling any of life’s challenges. It may sound like a cliché cat poster, but it’s true. This is why despite the amount of work I have to do on any given day of the week or the waves of stress that crest as I watch the news, I wholeheartedly believe that in time, “Everything [will be and] is fine.”

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