find your zen</p>
<p>Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash

My toddler daughter has been waking up at three in the morning. She tells me it's actually daytime and for sure time to watch her cartoons. She's also been refusing to take a bath at night and get dressed in the morning. You know, normal toddler stuff. But we all have these moments, and these are just some of the moments that make it hard to stay calm and find your zen.

Life is full of these moments, right? Our boss gives us more work than we can handle or refuses to grant us that extra vacation time. We get in a fight with our husband about the dishes or our pet peeve or that thing we've been fighting about since we started dating.

Bosses, coworkers, family, friends, and strangers can cause us to lose our cool. But so can traffic and errands and things that break or go wrong. That's why it's so important to have a handful of strategies at the ready. It's important to have some techniques to find your zen when the going gets rough.

Techniques to Find your Zen

When I'm angry or frustrated or just plain over it, I try the following tricks and techniques to calm the hell down. Hopefully, they'll also help you find your zen.

1. Breathing Exercises

Try breathing exercises to find your zen. </p>
<p>Photo by Eli DeFaria on Unsplash

When someone tells me to "just breathe" when I'm upset, it's a surefire way to just piss me off more. But it's a totally different story when I tell myself to breathe. Go figure.

Breathing exercises are a great way to find your zen for a few reasons. Slowing your breathing and taking deep breaths helps get more oxygen to your brain and slows down your nervous system. That's code for it helps you calm the hell down.

It also helps take your mind off whatever was bothering you. It's like a time-out for grown-ups.

Some of my favorite breathing exercises are Trace your Hand, Box Breathing, and Alternating Nostrils.

Trace your Hand

Trace your Hand

With the index finger of one hand, trace your opposite hand. On the way up your thumb, take a nice, deep breath in. Then, on the way down the thumb, breathe out. And so on with all your fingers.

The sensation of tracing helps take your mind off your stressor, and taking five rounds of slow, deep breaths takes about a minute, which is a nice vacation from whatever was frustrating you.

Box Breath

This one is simple. Breathe in on a four-count. Then hold your breath for four. Then out for four and hold for four.

Box breathing has a nice symmetry, and counting helps you focus solely on your breathing, which helps take your mind off things.

Alternating Nostrils

This is a yoga move. Place your thumb and middle finger of one hand over both nostrils. Then, press one nostril down and breathe in with the other. Hold. Then switch nostrils and breathe out. You should breathe in and out of one nostril before switching. The cycle goes: breathe in, switch, breathe out, breathe in, switch, breathe out.

Alternating nostrils helps you get more oxygen to both hemispheres of your brain, which will have you calming down in no time.

2. Visualization Exercises

Another great way to find your zen is through visualization. Imagining you're a mountain or tree or chillin' on a beach. These are all pretty great ways to calm the hell down.

Visualization helps you get your mind off of what was bothering you. It also helps you de-stress since you're picturing peaceful things. Pro tip: Don't visualize being in a pit of snakes or getting yelled at by your boss.

You on a Beach

Try visualization to find your zen. </p>
<p>Picture you're on a beach. </p>
<p>Photo by Sean O. on Unsplash

One of my favorite visualizations is to imagine I'm on a relaxing beach. I love this one because it involves strong sensory details from all five senses. I can try to imagine my feet are feeling the sand, my tongue is tasting the salty air, I'm smelling food being barbecued, seeing the sand and ocean, and hearing the waves roll in and out.

Some people are better at visualization than others, so trying to visualize a sensory-rich experience can give you a better chance for success.

But keep in mind, the point of a relaxing visualization is not the visualization itself. Who cares if it really felt like you were on a beach. The point is to slow your breathing and soothe your mind. So even if you can't picture those beach umbrellas, a visualization can really help you calm down and find your zen.

Yoga Poses

Try the yoga pose called tree to find your zen. </p>
<p>Bend but don't break. </p>
<p>Photo by Yannic Läderach on Unsplash

There's a yoga pose called mountain and one called tree. They're pretty self-explanatory. In mountain, you're really just standing, both feet on the ground. And in tree, you are balancing on one foot, the other resting on your inner thigh.

The yoga poses are great and all, but for my money, the visualization of the poses' names are where it's at. I like to imagine I'm a mountain or tree. I close my eyes and stand tall, really picturing that I'm a majestic mountain. Tough and sturdy and proud.

Or I balance on one foot and imagine I'm a tree. Sure, I sway, but I usually don't fall over. I'm resilient and, once again, sturdy.

These yoga visualizations have the added bonus of letting me move my body, which is another trick to help you find your zen.

3. Reframe your Thoughts

Reframe your thoughts to find your zen. </p>
<p>Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

I tend to fester whenever I get stressed out, frustrated, or upset. I'm just not one of those people who can just snap out of it. So I try to reframe my thoughts whenever I can. This helps me be more grateful and optimistic instead of staying stuck in that negative headspace.

It's important to acknowledge how you're feeling though. Reframing isn't about pretending to feel good when you don't. It's just a way to put things in perspective. You're not forcing yourself to calm the hell down, just giving your mind another way to see whatever is bothering it.


A gratitude journal could help you find your zen. </p>
<p>Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

One way to reframe your thoughts is to practice gratitude. You could keep a gratitude journal or ask yourself in the moment, "What am I grateful for?"

This might be tough when you're really heated, but focusing on what you're grateful for can help you get and stay calmer. Negativity breeds negativity, so try to break the cycle by practicing gratitude.

The Bright Side

Another way to reframe your thoughts is to look on the bright side. Now, I'm not suggesting you pretend things aren't bad. When it's bad, it's bad. But trying to see a silver lining can help you calm down faster and find your zen sooner.

Let's say you're late for work and really escalating. You feel behind on your work and are overthinking how your boss is going to react. By trying to find a bright side, you can stop yourself from escalating, which will then allow you to start calming back down.

So what's the bright side of being late for work? Well, being late to work means you went to work, which not everyone can say. You have a job! Plus, you arrived to work safe and sound and in good health. All very lucky things.

Someone Else's Shoes

Try to put yourself in someone else's shoes to calm down and find your zen. </p>
<p>Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

The final way to reframe your thoughts is to put yourself in someone else's shoes. Not just anyone's shoes. Put yourself in the shoes of the person who's causing you stress, anxiety, or frustration.

Imagine you are your boss or husband or child or mom. What are they going through? It usually takes two to tango, so trying to see the other point of view can help you be more understanding and less stressed, anxious, and frustrated.

4. Get Some Air

If all else fails, go out and get some air to help yourself calm down and find your zen. </p>
<p>Photo by Sam Schooler on Unsplash

If all else fails, I think it's important to remove yourself from the stressful situation when possible. If you've tried breathing, visualizing, and reframing and you're still amped up and stressed out, try taking a walk and getting some air.

Some people need more time than others to calm themselves down, process their feelings, and get back to zen. That's okay. Getting some fresh air and walking around for a while can give you that time to process and settle down.

Final Thoughts on how to Find your Zen

Breathing and visualization exercises, reframing your thoughts, and getting some air are all strategies to calm down when you're stressed out, frustrated, or pissed off. It's important to figure out what works for you.

I've developed over 100 improv-inspired exercises that can help you be more mindful, joyous, and connected. Some of those games will help you find your zen. They're based on my improv and theater research and many are available right here on this site.

*But don't get it twisted. Seek professional help from a trained therapist (not me!). These little tips and tricks work for me, but a therapist can help you process some of the root causes of why you're fed up in the first place.