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A meditation teacher's 4 tips for calming down and refocusing in just 30 seconds.

Mindful pauses are great 'spot treatments' for times when you feel stressed but have lots to do.

A meditation teacher's 4 tips for calming down and refocusing in just 30 seconds.

Anxiety really sucks.

It was early 2015, and I was fresh off a seven-month silent meditation retreat in the Arizona desert. After months of meditating for nine hours a day, I was in a state of deep peace, and I felt like I could stay that way forever.


This is me (right) doing a Buddhist ceremony with my teacher, Culadasa, in a yurt. Photos provided by Jon Krop, unless noted, and used with permission.

Then I moved to New York City.

Maybe you can guess what happened next: The city kicked the hell out of my zen tranquility almost immediately.

My retreat had provided me with perfect, artificial conditions — silence, solitude, no real responsibilities — and life in the city was the polar opposite. I needed to find a job. I needed to find an apartment. I'd started a relationship with someone, and it was falling apart. It was just too much. I felt overwhelmed, and then the anxiety hit me hard: a feeling of being doomed, trapped in an intolerable situation.

Was I really doomed? Of course not, but that's why anxiety can be so difficult.

Anxiety takes a tough but manageable situation and convinces you that it's unbearable and unfixable, a disaster.

I tried to use my new-found meditation skills to relieve my anxiety, but it didn’t work. Instead, I felt betrayed by my own meditation practice; after all that training, I couldn't handle basic, everyday life?

Then I remembered two pieces of advice:

“Discomfort avoidance is the common thread that binds all anxiety problems together.” — John Forsyth, Ph.D., and Georg Eifert, Ph.D., psychologists specializing in anxiety

"Short moments, many times.” My meditation teacher, the Tibetan master Tsoknyi Rinpoche (and a zillion other Tibetan masters; this is very old advice)

These two insights combined revealed my solution: I needed to turn toward my difficulties and not flinch away from them. (Yeah, I know, easier said than done.) I also needed a bite-sized way to do that so I could deal with my anxiety right away in the moments it arose.

That was when I started using this thing called a "mindful pause."

A mindful pause is meditation but not in a scary, "oh my god, how can I wipe my mind clear for 30 minutes" kind of way. Studies show that meditation can reduce stress and anxiety, and even in 30 seconds, the mindful pause lets you experience that firsthand. One study even found that meditation shrinks the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for stress, anxiety, and fear. Hell yeah.

Basically, the mindful pause is a great "spot treatment" for times when you feel stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed but have lots to do.

It involves taking 30 seconds to tune into your own body, and you can do it anywhere. You can be sitting, standing, lying down, whatever. Plus, no one will even know that you're meditating. When you're spinning out into an anxiety loop, sometimes you just need to interrupt the process. Inserting a pause gives you the opportunity to collect yourself.

Here’s how it works:

1. Take a deep breath.

Take a slow inhale, filling your lungs from bottom to top. Inhale into your lower belly and then fill upward through your mid-torso and chest.

This will help you take advantage of the well-documented connection between breath and mood. By slowing and deepening your breathing, you can actually create feelings of relaxation and calm.

2. Turn toward your body.

Open your attention to the sensations in your body. Let yourself notice whatever comes up: warmth, coolness, tingling, pressure, or the touch of clothing. There's no need to evaluate the sensations as "good" or "bad." Itching is simply itching. Coolness is simply coolness.

If you notice a complex array of sensations: perfect. If all you notice is the feeling of your butt on the chair: also perfect.

If you notice sensations that seem connected to stress or anxiety, those are especially good to pay attention to. Maybe it's a twisting in your gut or a tightness in your chest or warmth on your face. If you can stay with these bodily sensations and watch them, rather than taking the bait of anxious thoughts, you can let tough emotions pass without taking too much heat. It's like playing in the ocean: When a wave is coming, and you try to plant your feet and resist, you get knocked over. Then everyone points and laughs. But if you dive straight through the wave, it's no problem.

Just keep swimming. Photo via iStock.

This step needn't take longer than one in-breath or out-breath. Stay with it longer if you like, but it can be that quick.

3. Rest your attention on your breath.

Pay attention to the sensation of air touching your nostrils as you breathe. With gentle curiosity, watch the flow of changing sensations at the nostrils. These sensations anchor you in the present moment.

In this step, there's no need to deepen or slow your breath at all; just let your body breathe however it wants to. And just like the previous step, this step can be as short as one in-breath or one out-breath. You might feel like staying with it longer, but that’s up to you.

4. Carry on with your life!

The last step of the mindful pause is to simply re-engage with the world, without hurry.

These days, I don't wake up in a meditation yurt. But taking a 30-second pause helps me get as close to that yurt as I can in the busy city.

Open your eyes if you closed them ... and carry on with your day. But see if you can maintain that calm feeling and groundedness you just created. Don't lunge for your phone (I know, I know) or speed off to your next activity. If you can, take a few seconds just sitting or standing there quietly, and then move at a more leisurely pace.

Because mindful pauses are so quick and discreet, you can do them anywhere, anytime.

You can use the mindful pause at your desk, on public transit, in line at the grocery store, in a box, with a fox...

The hardest part isn’t actually completing the mindful pause itself; it’s remembering to do it in the first place. I like to remember my mindful pauses by linking them to specific moments that occur on a daily basis: when I first sit down at my desk every morning or before I turn on my computer.

I also used to fall into the trap of using the mindful pause as a way to resist my anxiety. I'd do the four steps then think to myself, "What the hell? My anxiety is still here! The stupid thing didn't work."

But the trick is to accept that tough feelings, like anxiety, will come and go. When they’re here, they’re here, but that doesn’t need to be a problem. By turning toward our emotions and watching them, even for 30 seconds, we can find real relief.

Taking mindful pauses has changed my life.

There’s the tangible stuff: I got the hang of life in NYC (as much as anyone can — this city is bananas). I found the apartment. I found the job. Well, jobs, because these days I’m both a lawyer and a meditation teacher. I even get to merge my two worlds and teach meditation to my fellow lawyers. Believe me, we need it.

For now, I'm just trying to channel my meditation instructor's zen during my every day life as a New Yorker.

But best of all, I now have a way to work with my anxiety. When I start to spin out, I can keep my footing. The mindful pause lets me bring the calm and clarity of my desert retreat into the chaos of the city.

I highly recommend it.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

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A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

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Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."