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Seven Empowering Mental Tools for the Modern Woman in Stressful Situations

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You’re an enlightened, empowered, independent woman, yet you still encounter stressors in this disquieting modern dystopia we call life. But no need to worry! With these seven tips, you’ll meditate your way to the Whole Foods version of yourself.


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Buddhist Half Smiling

You forgot your Tumblr password so many times that you get kicked off the site. Worse, this Tumblr is from freshman year of college. And it's the second thing that comes up when you Google yourself (The first thing is a quote you gave to a local paper after seeing an Avril Lavigne concert in middle school. This Tumblr is somehow worse.) Brimming with selfies atop your extra-long twin, it's turning out to be a problem for your employment prospects. You've tried thirty different variations of the password you've used for every account when you were twelve, but you're locked out.

Acknowledge and accept this anxiety using a skill taught to both students of Buddhism and of Dialectical Behavioral Theory: half smiling. Observing an image of the Buddha, you'll see he sits with a relaxed face, free of any muscle movement. His face is soft aside from the almost indiscernible curled-up corners of his mouth (Mona Lisa did this too, but women inventors rarely get credit for anything). It's said to work in a few minutes, which isn't even half the time it normally takes you to recover from a blog-induced rage blackout. And just like that, your mood improves and you remember your password is hulahottie1991.

Ujjayi Breathing

You can't remember where the stamp goes on the envelope and you're around some coworkers born before 1987. You're a thoroughly modern woman and you shouldn't have to remember such trifling anachronisms. While the rest of the world hasn't adapted as quickly as you have, it still taunts you for your coddled millennial nature and lack of historical memory. Also, you're in a brutalist office building and cell reception is too spotty to discreetly look up the answer.

Known as "Ujjayi breathing" to Taoists and people who can sit still for longer than 12 seconds without refreshing their email, the energy of this breath comes from your diaphragm (not the kind of diaphragm your mom used). Breath in and out through your nose to create the sound of waves crashing as air passes through your glottis. Your breath will slow and your focus will sharpen. The stamp goes on the left side by the way. Wait, maybe it's on the right side. It doesn't matter. Centralized postage will be dead in five years, anyway.


You recall the horrifying and uncharacteristic things you said to a hot person last night. You remember you gave a bartender your business card with a little bit of sandwich on it. Worse, you sent someone saved in your phone as "Crhsianhin" twelve winky face emoticons between midnight and three in the morning. At 3:03 a.m., he responded, "i arm nott interestefd in you" [sic].

Try fogging. Fogging is technique used in assertiveness training to respond to especially aggressive people instead of arguing back. Agree with any true statements even if they are critical of you. Instead of firing back, "I wasn't even interested in you and you had weird teeth," respond with a fogging response such as, "I see now that you were not interested in my twelve winky face emoticons and I can see how my insistence may have been troubling for you." You can also just ignore that text and try again with Crhsianhin next weekend.

Paying for In-App Purchases on a Meditation Download

You've finally embraced the concept of radical acceptance thanks to that meditation app you read about in The New Yorker. For the first time in your life, you feel comfortable pooping in a public restroom, maybe one frequented by friends or coworkers. This is one of the most extreme mind/body challenges there is, and you've put a great deal of care into regulating your bodily rhythms to fit your work-life schedule. Just as you get comfortable, an interloper enters—not to go to the bathroom herself, but to pull up her tights for three minutes and then smile at herself in the mirror with dead eyes. You can either hold, let go, or do something in between.

Your meditation app promises that just another $1.99 will unlock the secrets of mindfulness like low-key Scientology. You'll be more accepting and more aware of your surroundings, ensuring you can poop in peace even with a meddling coworker standing four feet from you. At the very least, waiting for that in-app purchase to download will take as much time as it does for her to finish fluffing hair and leave the bathroom.

Carrying a Yoga Mat Around

You're holding a bag of groceries on public transportation and you're about to snap. Everyone's sweating a lot, but somehow you're sweating more than all of them combined. The perspiration on the palm of your hands is thick enough to saturate the paper handles of your Trader Joe's bag, dissolving the only grip you have on your Heat & Eat Falafel and suspiciously inexpensive Angus beef tips. The bag's handles begin to tear, fiber by fiber, threatening to send your discount booty rolling down the train car, under the heads of the inverted subway-pole dancers, and into a pile of suspicious looking brown liquid in the far corner. You really wanted that Heat & Eat Falafel. You know what would make this better? If you were also carrying a yoga mat.

Ten out of ten Yogis agree that carrying around a yoga mat, especially when paired with high-performance outerwear, is the ultimate way to create the illusion that you're a chill person and a paragon of mental and physical health. Its shape is cumbersome and its necessity at a grocery store or coffee shop is still hotly contested, but its social benefits are absolute.

Yes Anding

You've painstakingly split the bill using a special calculator that cost $1.99 in the app store and eaten the complimentary chocolate mint even though you swore you were too full to ever eat again, but the server has ten other groups he's waiting on and there's some sort of situation with your next-table-neighbor's onion gratin. You're bursting out of your clothes, you've come down with the deadly affliction known as "potato chest"—the tightness that creeps up your chest when you eat too many potatoes—and you need to lie down on a cool floor. But you're not leaving here for at least another 15 minutes. Make that 20 minutes. This is where the expensive recreational improv training that you and everyone you know has taken helps most.

Yes Anding is an improv rule that stipulates a person should accept the scenario her partner has laid down ("Yes") and then raise the stakes ("And"). When your dining companion suggests you go wait in the car, instead of saying, "No" in a display of your signature stubbornness, take it to the next level. For example, "Yes, I will go wait in the car and I will crash it through the front of this restaurant and make it look like an accident." Then, simply follow through.

Straight Up Just Taking Another Klonopin

Air travel is a superabundance of terror, turbulence, and room temperature tomato juice, but the plight doesn't end once you've hit the tarmac and the lady next to you stops clapping. In the world's busiest airports, your aircraft might wait thirty minutes or an hour to taxi to the nearest open jet bridge. You've run out of Haribo snacks, read every tabloid magazine the Hudson Books in your departure city had to offer, and your dad is texting you telling you he's been driving an endless feedback loop around the airport since 5:12 pm (your estimated arrival time). The air is stale, and the baby in front of you just started crying. Your sedatives are wearing off.

Just take another one. There's really no breathing exercise that'll get you out of this one.

Claire Carusillo lives in a bedroom in New York City. Follow @clocarus for an open discussion of books, bread, and eyebrows.