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  • Nicola Wenz

Pressed to De-Stress

From glitz to back alleys, Angelinos find ways to relieve their stress

Kahve Azarnoush spends his free time climbing rocks in the parks of Malibu. It’s his way of de-stressing, because when the alarm goes off early in the morning during his work week, Azarnoush has to face some of the worst traffic in the country to get to his job as a freelance production coordinator in Studio City. “Growing up in LA, you deal with a lot of angry drivers and slowly become one of them if you don’t have a way to deal with stress,” Azarnoush said. “If I go on a climbing trip, if I go camping, I really come back feeling better.”

Azarnoush is right. The average number of hours he and others lose in LA traffic per year is 128, according to a 2018 study by Interactive Ranking & City Dashboard.

Part of the solution, Azarnoush said, would be to add more green space in the city and in the county. More parks mean more people would be able to “rejuvenate and refresh and just relax.” 

Los Angeles city has a total of 632 parks with almost 300,000 acres of land. That’s roughly 1.8 parks for every 10,000 people, according to a 2016 study by the Trust for Public Land.

(See video interview by Evan Jacoby:


Earlier this summer, Los Angeles had the highest percentage of residents who said they were “somewhat stressed” in their daily lives, with Hollywood ranking as the number one location, according to a study OnePoll, a marketing research company specializing in online and mobile polling. Another report, this one from Forbes, cited other stress points in the city. 

Los Angeles has a 12.3% unemployment rate, the country’s third least affordable housing, and a high cost of living, according to the Forbes report. On top of all that, the report said, LA has the highest ozone levels in the country and the third-worst traffic congestion in the U.S. Los Angeles ranks as the top city in the United States with the most air pollution, according to a study by the American Lung Association.

Commuter traffic drives Mayor Margarita L. Rios a bit crazy. “I think the things that probably make me the most anxious is our commuter traffic,” Rios said. “I actually work in Los Angeles, so I commute on a daily basis, but I look forward to driving back to Norwalk every day.”

Art is her stress relief.

In Norwalk, Rios said art in public spaces can provide residents with a sense of calm and enjoyment. “Art in public spaces is so important,” Rios said. “We have a healthy program here in the city of Norwalk of art in public spaces.”

One way to raise money for arts is a program that requires new businesses or developers who are interested in the city to deduct a percentage from each investment they make, and use it for the city's Art in Public Places project.

Art can change the world. A simple brushstroke or splash of paint is all it takes to lift spirits or reduce stress. Public art can make a difference on an even larger scale. It can inspire communities and touch lives through beautiful imagery and empowering messages.

Most people already know what to do to ease their stress; they just struggle to find time to commit to something that helps them reduce it, said Quade French, USC clinical psychologist and senior project manager in the Office of Campus Wellbeing in Education.

“I think one of the challenges is that people forget how resilient they can be when confronted with stressors, and it's so often that people know what's best for them already,” French said. “I am starting to run into more and more people now who by virtue of the privilege of being able to listen to podcasts in their cars are really starting to transform that experience of driving into one that allows them to either process their day or listen to something that they might enjoy, like a book or an audio book or something or a podcast.”


Cows, goats and hugs. Oh my. You can hug a cow or let a goat walk all over you in a therapeutic yoga session. Or you can hug a stranger. Even though all three are designed to help people find ways to de-stress, they each come with a price tag. For human interaction, people pay a variety of prices for different types of contact. It's called cuddling and its popularity in Los Angeles is growing. 

So, then what about cuddling a stranger?

(Watch Cuddle Sanctuary video by Nicola Wenz:

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