These Expert-Approved Tips Can Help You Find Your Zen

Finding moments of calm is essential to our mental health. 
Taking a few minutes to unwind and relax throughout the day can be a major tool in combatting anxiety and depression, and can also help improve your overall wellbeing. We called in reinforcements to help you find your zen–we consulted Jamie Howard, PhD for her expert advice. Dr. Howard is a senior clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, where she specializes in anxiety and mood disorders. Below, she shares her tips for checking in with your mental health throughout the day, along with exercises to help you combat anxiety and stress. 

Take Time to Check-In With Your Body In the Morning And at Night

I recommend doing a body scan. We experience tension throughout our bodies, and we often forget to check-in and notice it. Sit still for a few minutes and work your way up from your toes to your head. If you notice tension in any particular body part—quads, lower back, shoulders, eye sockets—take a few slow deep breaths and imagine yourself releasing the muscle that’s tensed up.

Practice Mindfulness During the Day

Mindfulness is the practice of paying careful attention to this one moment, and it can involve anything from observing your breath, to going for a walk without distraction, or even listening to music in an intentional and focused way. Mindfulness can help us get a break from the constant thoughts and concerns swirling in our heads, and the more we practice it, the better we become at it.

Try an Exercise to Help You Unwind After Work

Since most of us are working from home right now, there’s less of a natural transition from work mode to home life. A few activities or rituals can help you shift your mindset:

  1. Tidy your workstation and ‘shut it down’ to demarcate work life from home life (close your laptop and tidy papers and notebooks). If you use a desk, walk away from it; if you use a dining table, clear work from the area so you can use it for eating

  2. Go for a walk outside or go into another room, and be sure to do something non-screen related, like cook dinner

  3. Do some light stretching or gentle yoga for 5-10 mins to relieve body tension, especially in your neck and shoulders.

In Moments of Stress, Try Diaphragmatic Breathing

This kind of belly breathing regulates the oxygen levels in your blood, which can directly influence the flight/flight response that fuels panic attacks. Slow, steady breathing from your diaphragm (as opposed to your chest) is the first most important step to short circuit the stress response, and then once you’re more calm, you can think more clearly and problem solve.