8 Fantastic San Francisco Activities for Staying (Kind of) Sane

These are the walks, beaches, workouts, and bookshops to stave off the existential dread just one day more.

Is the triumvirate of the financial market, climate crisis, and looming political collapse getting you down? Is your dragon’s den of Bitcoin just not shining the way it used to? New district attorney into prosecuting kids as adults while reminding us they aren’t smart enough to vote? It sounds like you could be experiencing Living in San Francisco in the year of our lord 2022. Don’t worry — it gets better. 

While I’m not at liberty to discuss food and drink in this forum, though happy to elsewhere, I am at liberty to detail the ways I have managed to (for the most part) stay sane in the Paris of the West. Major caveat: I am not a clinical psychotherapist! Nor a psychiatrist, family counselor, or social worker, and I don’t even own a Peloton. But, I can assure you, these eight techniques have worked wonders for me through the years in the city. And, seriously, it gets better.

Maybe one of these activities will give you a break from all the madness.

Walking the length of Ocean Beach

The waves at the westernmost beach in the city roll in cold and heavy while enormous tankers laze through the Golden Gate — it’s quite a sight to behold. Surfers get tossed from their boards by the morning and bonfires dot the beach at night. The miles of beach are perfect for a long walk, working through an Andytown snowy plover while the snowy plovers skitter below a pink and orange sky. (Or, more likely, a gray sky.) More info.

Rock climbing at Planet Granite

Similar to my lack of medical professionalism, I am also no rock climber. That said, the Presidio’s spot for climbing is a welcome opportunity for even a novice like myself. Views of the Bay are plentiful while top-roping or bouldering and the community is (generally) quite friendly. A full gym is available, in addition to a yoga room, for those looking to blow off steam without the chalk. More info.

Hit one of the myriad cool towns around the city

It’s not called the Bay Area for anything. A bike ride to Sausalito, awash with Meditteranean vibes, or a BART ride to Oakland, stuffed with delectable food and drink, are just two examples of surprisingly quick and cheap trips a city-goer goin’ through it can make to lighten their mood. More info. 

Urban hikes galore

Dolores Park is not the only park in San Francisco. Above UCSF lies Sutro Forest, full of trails and switchbacks leading up to the Iron Giant-esque Sutro Tower and all both of those Twin Peaks. The Pemberton Place Steps is a hardly-traveled paved path that invokes Tolkein much more than “Rings of Power” ever will. And, remember, Dolores Park is not the only park in San Francisco. More info. 

Participate in and create a local culture

Mental health in San Francisco can be a pressure cooker when considering that so few are from the Bay, an ongoing reminder that living here at all could make oneself part of “the problem.” One way to dismantle that narrative in your brain (and, hopefully, make San Francisco a bit more livable for all) is to actually contribute to the city’s myriad music, literary, food, and arts scenes. A few places to start are buying books from shops like Medicine for Nightmares and Bound Together, catching a show in the Tenderloin at clubs like Piano Fight and Black Cat, and dropping through intersectional spaces like La Cocina Municipal Marketplace and the Saturday farmers market at the Ferry Building. More info.

Feel the wind beneath your skates

David Miles Jr. is one such example of someone who moved to the city and immediately dove into creating culture. His avenue of choice? Rollerskating. His temple to the activity, the Church of Eight Wheels, is a true San Francisco delight. In Golden Gate Park an auxiliary skating community can be found at the Skatin’ Place near the concourse. More info. 

Stay active in the city’s salvation

If your menty b is in any way due to those chipper political and social issues mentioned above, a tonic could come in the form of working to ameliorate those dynamics. Refuse Refuse is a community group dedicated to making the city cleaner, and Brown Girl Surf takes young womyn and girls out to the waves for outdoor activities they may otherwise never be able to access. There are tons of ways to plug in, and, it bears reminding, these are excellent chances to make a like-minded friend in an ever-lonelier world. More info.

Talking to a therapist!!!

After moving around a bit and getting involved with San Francisco’s art and politics, it’s worth doubling down on a tried and true formula: addressing mental health concerns. Whether longstanding traumas (the fun ones) or managing daily stresses at work (the real “Neverending Story”) there’s no reason not to be the one in the family to break that generational stigma toward mental wellness. Church Street Integral Counseling Center is a sliding scale practice, meaning those of us who aren’t land-owning elite can still see a shrink, crisis lines are paramount for scary moments, and the Alcoholics Anonymous community in San Francisco is hella active for anyone battling substance abuse issues. Don’t let Kaiser’s dedication to ruining your mental health stop you — circumvent your capital-hungry insurance provider and get help today. More info

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