Lower Your Stress – Dr. Rick Hanson

Lower Your Stress - Dr. Rick Hanson



Even in the middle of the most insane day, there are lots of things that can be done to immediately lower stress levels, foster a better sense of well-being, and create a small space in which to begin figuring out how to lower stresses over the long term. Additionally, getting out of the red zone stops the current wear and tear on the body, and it helps prevent the brain and hormones from getting so sensitized to stress that they overreact to it in the future.

That’s why it’s important to feel good as often as possible, at least several times each day. These experiences are more than enjoyable: they help protect the body against future stresses, improve problem-solving, and stop downward spirals.

Here are some soothers to practice throughout the day:

  • Take four long, slow breaths, and with the exhale, imagine that a gray cloud of stress, worries, or troubles is leaving the body. With the inhale, imagine that peace and love and wisdom are filling the body.
  • Repeat a favorite saying or prayer.
  • Make a cup of tea.
  • Listen to music.
  • Go for a short walk.
  • Call a friend for a quick chat.
  • Meditate.
  • Exercise, dance, stretch or do yoga.
  • Do some art or a craft.
  • Prepare a simple healthy meal.

Some of these things will take only a minute or so, and can be done while nursing, tending to children, doing housework, or driving. It’s also important to continue using whatever stress-reducing techniques are already working well. Partners can also help one another take breaks, perhaps for half an hour in the evening or for several hours each weekend. And it’s important to make sure there are times with the kids that are especially enjoyable. Make a mental list of fun things to do with the children and make time to do those activities on a regular basis. Plus, dream up a wish list of new things to do with the kids, and then do at least some of them. It doesn’t have to be a big-ticket item.

Be at peace
Another way to stay well is by focusing on being rather than doing. Sure there’s a lot to do, but avoid running around like the Energizer Bunny more than is needed, being perfectionistic, or staying busy as a way to avoid certain feelings. Every so often, stop all that doing for a bit. Perhaps the In Box is empty, the baby’s asleep, the bills are in the mail. The urgency of the daily round falls away, and a quiet fills the air. Thoughts slow down, no longer grabbed and jostled by tasks. There is presence in this moment and no worries about the future. Allow the feeling of being freer, less bound by burdens, less limited by roles. The edges soften. Each breath comes like a wave on the seashore, rising and falling, the ocean abiding. There is peace, contentment, warmth, and happiness, just here, just as you are.