The Unwind: How we're finding calm, from online meditation to incense

·6 min read

Welcome to The Unwind, a recurring feature in which Yahoo staffers share the ways we’re finding moments of peace, levity and inspiration during these trying times. From adopting soothing strategies that boost our mental health, to losing ourselves in virtual social calls, newfound passions and other joyous diversions, these are the things getting us through the pandemic. The days may feel uncertain, but beauty and bright spots abound.

For more, check out past editions of The Unwind.

Nathalie Cruz is getting a grip on meditation thanks to a course. (Photo: Getty Images stock photo)
Nathalie Cruz is getting a grip on meditation thanks to a course. (Photo: Getty Images stock photo)

Meditation course

One of my goals this year was to make meditation a habit — but then 2020 happened. I had done the 10-minute daily meditations on Calm but I wanted to invest more into the practice with a little more discipline and sense of community. Enter Anchor Meditation. This 10-day, 1-hour meditation course is designed for beginners and works like a virtual group class. The first 30 minutes is gaining actionable insights, whether it is the science behind stress, a new breathing technique or a Spotify playlist to meditate to. The last 30 minutes is the meditation itself, with a follow-up Q&A. What I liked most about the course is that no day was the same, and I was able to explore different techniques to figure out what worked best for me. The first day I found myself being really uncomfortable sitting still without doing anything or thinking anything. Meditation is one of those things that is so easy, it’s actually hard. But at the end of 10 days I finally felt at ease and I am glad I got to connect with others in the group as they also struggled and learned throughout the course. It reminded me of how we are all in this together. The sessions are live and recorded so I was able to accommodate with my work schedule. I was able to practice different times of the day and found night meditation really helped me wind down for bed after a hectic day at work. This 10-day course is a perfect way to center oneself as we all slow down for the holidays. If you’re still looking for a way into meditation with some discipline, Anchor is the gateway to a new healthy habit. — Nathalie Cruz, multimedia designer


I want to start off by apologizing to my friends who have asked me to do a puzzle with them. I used to say I was not a puzzle person. Well, I was wrong. What started off as an innocent suggestion from a well-meaning loved one turned into the best way to extricate myself from my laptop, cell phone and TV screen. Puzzles mean no screen time, and my eyes are thanking me for it. So far, I've completed a 500-piece puzzle of New York's Coney Island, and a 1,000-piece puzzle of a hippie grocery store with a chair that says "The Bike is the Answer" and features a person-less jacket strumming a purple acoustic guitar. While winter may be dark, puzzles are bringing me a bit of relaxation and mental stimulation that doesn't require any blue light. — Alexis Shaw, managing editor

Create mindful art with the Buddha Board tablet. (Photo: Buddha Board)
Create mindful art with the Buddha Board tablet. (Photo: Buddha Board)

Buddha Board

I’m not sure how I would have survived the pandemic this far without Wi-Fi and dozens of streaming channels at my disposal, but mindlessly doomscrolling Twitter while the TV blares isn’t exactly ... meditative. I often long for my less connected, more contemplative days as a (pre-Google) student, when whole weekends could be whiled away painting watercolors, or decoupaging old furniture. At the same time, I’m wary of making a huge mess, or splashing a princely sum on art supplies I may not end up using. And so I turned to Buddha Board. As its name suggests, there’s a Zen sentiment behind this minimalist art tool, which requires only water to use. The attached stand serves as a water trough, easel and makeshift Zen garden in one, while the screen, once you’ve dipped your brush in the water and painted something, makes for a beautiful canvas — temporarily, at least. As the water evaporates, your image disappears, “leaving you with a clean slate and a clear mind, ready to create a whole new masterpiece.” It’s strangely soothing, not to mention handy for not-so-perfect artists (hi!) who may need a do-over. — Erin Donnelly, writer and editor

Dana Oliver uses incense to help clear her mind. (Photo: Getty Creative stock photo)
Dana Oliver uses incense to help clear her mind. (Photo: Getty Creative stock photo)

Vibing out with incense

My morning routine has evolved many times during the pandemic, as I’m juggling work and a 2-year-old who is now in the thick of potty training. It’s very important that I find peace in the midst of all the chaos and one way I do that is by lighting incense. The fragrant aroma of frankincense and myrrh fills my living room, yet clears my mind of worries for 30 minutes, which is long enough to enjoy a moment of solitude with a hot cup of tea and my Chill Mix on Apple Music before I’m back into the hustle and bustle of life. — Dana Oliver, beauty director and managing editor of branded content

Peloton love from a former cardio-hater

Never in my wildest dreams did I think a spin bike would become my saving grace. I took one cycling class at a gym about 15 years ago, where I basically tried not to cry through the entire 45 minutes, and left with a very sore bum for many, many days, never to return again. Fast forward to 2019, when I decided (translation: prayed) that having a Peloton in my house would push me to work out on a consistent basis. Little did I know this bike would become my go-to stress reliever, karaoke bar, therapist and best friend during this pandemic. I'll admit it: I've laughed, I've cried, I've sung, I've danced — I've done it all on this bike. Whether it was a 15-minute pick-me-up or a 60-minute trek, this piece of machinery, its instructors, and the Peloton community have seen me through some very dark days this year. And, at the same time, has turned me into a spinning junkie. I know, I still can't believe it either. — Tracy Pepey, senior designer

Sofia Fernandez is channeling her stress into scrubbing her kitchen floor. (Photo: Sofia Fernandez)
Sofia Fernandez is channeling her stress into scrubbing her kitchen floor. (Photo: Sofia Fernandez)

Scrubbing the floor

The stress of recent national events has manifested itself in an unlikely release: scrubbing the heck out of our kitchen floor. I squirt an ample amount of Dr. Bronner's liquid soap onto a small section, drop to my hands and knees and vigorously attack with a scrub brush. Back and forth I go, alternating arms when they're tired, rinsing, scouring and re-rinsing to remove the grime that I had accepted over the years as a consequence of the floor's ill-conceived woven material. If I can't control what's happening in our country, at least I can exert authority over deep-seated dirt. — Sofia Fernandez, video programming

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