Best Your Stress Month | Chris Kresser
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Best Your Stress Month

by Chris Kresser

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In my 9 Steps to Perfect Health series, I argued that stress management may be the most important of all of the steps.

Why? Because no matter what diet you follow, how much you exercise and what supplements you take, if you’re not managing your stress you will still be at risk for modern degenerative conditions like heart disease, diabetes, hypothyroidism and autoimmunity.

Many of you may feel defeated or overwhelmed by stress. I understand this. Stress management is hard. It asks a lot of us. It forces us to slow down, to step back, to disengage (if only for a brief time) from the electric current of modern life. It asks us to prioritize self-care in a culture that does not value it.

While I feel your pain, and still struggle with stress management myself, I’ve got to lay down some tough love here. If you’re not doing some form of regular stress management, you will sabotage all of your best efforts with diet, exercise and supplements. Stress management is absolutely crucial to optimal health and longevity. If most health conscious people spent even half the amount of time they spend focusing on nutrition and exercise on managing their stress, they’d be a lot better off.

Many of you have done a 30-day Paleo diet challenge, whether the Personal Paleo Code, Whole30 or maybe a program through your local gym.  You’ve probably done something similar with exercise and fitness.  But what about stress reduction?  Why doesn’t it get the attention it deserves?

We’re going to change that.  This month, let’s dedicate some of our time to taking it easy.  April is Best Your Stress Month!

Here’s how it works:

From April 1 to April 30, pick one way you’ll plan on de-stressing your life. This could be something like meditation, yoga, deep breathing, or spending more time in nature.  There are many possibilities here. What relaxes and calms you? (If you need some ideas, check out my article on stress management.)

Now make a specific goal. 

Goals can be something like “I will start each day with 5 minutes of deep breathing exercises” or “I will turn my phone/computer off for 30 minutes after work.” Make them as specific as possible – you’ll be less likely to back out on your promise later.

Write your goal somewhere you’ll see it often – perhaps your fridge, your desk, your car, (your forehead?) – and then leave a comment on this post with your goal so we can share ideas and support each other.  Please also post your goal on Facebook and Twitter if you use social media so others can see what you’re up to.

Use your community as a resource:

Having trouble sticking to your goal? Need some other ideas for decreasing your stress? Tackle your issue in the comments section of this post. Ask your peers for advice. What are they doing to de-stress? It’s time to make some friends! A strong community of peers is also very important in maintaining a healthy life.

I truly hope this challenge allows you to let go of some of the stress you may have been hanging on to lately and that you make lots of new friends in the comments!


Join the conversation

  1. This month my goal was more present awareness. As I think about the month so far, it is happening! I danced with my teenage daughter in the kitchen, I sat up talking with her until my eyes were too heavy to stay awake, I have listened to my son’s stories and chose laying next to my husband rather than looking over emails. All things that nourish me.

  2. For the challenge, I’ve been putting myself to bed earlier which has had tremendous benefits! I am in a much better mood, I’m way less tired (duh), I don’t feel as hungry and I think it’s opened my eyes to take better care of me…it may have been responsible for me taking the plunge…

    …I had a relaxation massage today! What an incredible hour!

  3. I am jumping on this a bit late, but I am just starting a business so you can imagine the stress. My stomach has even gotten bigger! Probably all the cortisol. I am trying to live each day to the fullest and letting what will happen just happen without stressing. So I am practicing letting go, we hold on to way to much. Also when your used to eating all the time you don’t realize how often just thinking about your next meal can stress you out so I am eating pemmican now and other high fat foods. Lots of good fats to keep me going and I know its going to keep me full for a while so no worries.

  4. Hi everyone,

    Just a quick note to check in and see how you’ve all done with the first week of the Best Your Stress challenge. Have you been able to stick with the commitments you’ve made? What have you noticed so far?

    For those having trouble, I have a couple of recommendations:
    Something is better than nothing. For example, if your goal is to meditate for 30 minutes every morning but you overslept and don’t have time to do the full session, even 5 minutes is better than not doing it at all.
    Don’t beat yourself up. I’m sure you can appreciate the irony of getting really stressed out about stress reduction. It’s counterproductive.

    If you didn’t get off to a great start, don’t worry. Just begin again. We have the opportunity to start fresh in each moment.

    I’ll check in again next week, but I’d love to hear more about your experiences so far!

    • So far so good! The bird-watching has been fantastic. I’m probably doing about the same things and eating about the same things, I have been successful about worrying less about all of that.

      Here’s some delicious irony for you–I have “pruned” the amount of time I spend on PaleoHacks EXCEPT I am participating on a thread about your Best Your Stress recommendations. Get it? Huh?

      Anyhow, I think I have relaxed a bit mentally and it feels good.

    • I’ve been pretty consistent about doing my 5 minute meditation in the morning. In fact, sometimes I meditate for longer than 5 minutes. However, I’m having trouble at night. Sometimes I fall asleep while meditating! Any suggestions?

      • There are different perspectives on this, but if you’re using meditation to manage stress you could do worse than fall into a deep sleep.

  5. My job involves corporate staff management with my sleeves rolled up, performing while managing. It’s extremely stressful, I’d say three days out of five each week. The other two days are a bit less stressful.
    To begin to chill out for the rest of April, I’ll walk on the beach at lunch at least once each week. I’ll walk at a park at least once each week. Or I’ll run if I’m in the mood. I’ve been getting out for short walks but it’s not enough.

  6. It is about time stress gets some headlines! I am a nutritionist and the first thing I discuss with people is stress management. I agree totally with you Chris that if the stress is not managed why institute rigid dietary guidelines? In some cases doing so will just increase the person’s stress levels and they do not get better. When stress is managed, exercise is prescribed properly, and the client follows a paleo-type diet it is amazing the results that can be achieved. I cover a lot of stress topics on my blog and absolutely love Robert Sapolsky’s books.

  7. My goal is to go up to the mountain top twice a week. Someone was talking about the Sherpas and how they live up high. Someone talked about getting lost in the Himalayas and upon being rescued by Sherpas was given hot tea with yak butter that revived him. When I was a kid I was very taken by the story of Heidi. I reread it last week and loved the descriptions of the wind in the trees, the air quality and such. Then it occurred to me that I live within a 15 minute drive and a 15 minute tram ride to 10,000 feet. I live at 5200 feet. So on my birthday a few weeks ago I treated myself to a tram ride up to the top. It was exhilarating, glorious. It’ll take a while to adjust to the altitude but I enjoy the view, the air, going slow, not thinking about much, conversing with the tourists and as the snow melts I can go off by my self and sing Una Paloma Blanca as loud as I want. It’s a big step for me to take 90 minutes up on top twice a week just for me. I echo Michelle J about loving the flow of the week and spending time in nature.

  8. Thank you Chris for putting this out there and also for sharing your personal goals. Seeing so many sign up and share comments is inspiring!

    I love the flow of the week having committed to 30 minutes of mediation and spending time in nature.


  9. Love this idea as it is something I want to work on right now anyway!

    I am focusing on breath-awareness meditation in the mornings in place of checking my email and facebook.

  10. I’m putting on my outlook calendar at work 4 alarms every day- at 10, 12, 2, and 4, an alarm will pop up on my screen and say “breathe 🙂 ” and I will stop my work and do deep diaphramatic breathing for 2-3 minutes. The smiley face is there to remind me that if I miss a breathing time, I shouldn’t stress about THAT! 🙂
    Great Idea Chris!

  11. Thanks for this-perfect timing…been trying to de-stress lately.

    My goal will be to check in with myself though a daily journal, whether I feel like writing 1 word, a paragraph, or more, I will commit to focusing on how I really feel, what actions I can take from my feelings, and something I am thankful for.

  12. It was a bit hard ot think of some things. But no electronics an hour before bed and getitng outside more are my goals.

  13. Thanks for posting this challenge! My goal is to take 20 minutes before bed each night to meditate or sit quietly without music.

  14. I need to do one of two things to handle my stress better; either spend time outside and/or care for someone/something other than myself. So at the least I can sit outside for 5 minutes a day or brush a dog. On days with more time I can walk in the woods or garden. Even a few minutes helps.

  15. Kudos Chris on this and your entire works. As an acupuncturist and fledgling functional medicine practitioner I feel really inspired seeing how you tackle all this. For me my goal is to keep at least one non-medical, non-work related book going all month.

  16. Thanks to my friend for linking me to this article! My goal is to meditate for at least 10 minutes each day.

  17. I love this idea and the encouragement to make it specific and doable. I will laugh for at least 5 minutes every morning when I wake up (hopefully work my way up to 10 minutes by the end of the month)! And I will play the piano every day for whatever amount of time I’m drawn to do it.

  18. Love this and the timing is perfect. My goal is to walk slowly around my beautiful yard every evening to see what grew that day (without fixating on work to be done; just appreciate what is there). I feel a need to reconnect to the simple things in life, like life itself!

  19. Great post. I’ve made great progress in my food diet over the past few years, but I always put the stress diet on the back burner. I’m committing to a daily stress reduction activity for the month of April. Thanks for the motivation Chris!

  20. I’m in.

    My goal for the month is to meditate daily. Even if its just for one minute. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it by the end of the month to where I’ll be up for fifteen or more minutes at a time. I’m going to step away from the computer, sit my ass down and just be calm. I’ll do my best to ignore thoughts as they come. It will take practice.

    And, as you said Chris, I want to be fully present and focus on one task at a time. I think meditating daily will surely help with this.

    I haven’t meditated yet today… time to take a few minutes to do so right now!

  21. My goal for the month is to do one thing at a time, and be fully present for whatever it is that I’m doing – whether cooking, writing, spending time with Sylvie, walking, or working.

  22. I’m in. My goal is to do deep breathing exercises twice a day, once with a Powerlung in the morning, once with binaural beats in the evening.

  23. I never manage to stick to 30 day programmes that interest me as I get stressed and give up! Time to tackle the stress. Makes so much sense that this is the place to start. 5 minutes twice a day of meditation is my commitment.

  24. This month, I’m going to be the observer. Rather than worry about how hard I am on myself (too hard, too lax), or worrying about how, positive or negative I feel, or motivated, or productive, or smart, or lazy, etc., I’m just going step outside it all and observe it. I’m going to let myself be, feel, want, and think whatever I do and notice it all, rather than judge it or change it.

    • Yes! I’m in my 3rd week of that and it has been incredibly freeing. Other than mindful shopping to ensure my kitchen contains healthy options, I’ve distanced myself from constant self-analysis/critiques and I’ve been very pleased to feel myself relax and enjoy more of my days.

    • My Zen teacher used to be fond of saying “Change is not possible without awareness.” Excellent choice!

    • This is what we learn to do in meditation: to BE the neutral observer.

      “I’m going to let myself be, feel, want, and think whatever I do and notice it all, rather than judge it or change it.”
      Jon H, are you sure you’re not Jon KZ?

  25. I love this idea Chris. As a stressed out, perfectionist, graduate student, this is just what I needed! I’m so good about making sure I exercise, eat the right foods, take my supplements, etc. However, I struggle with being consistent with my stress management. I started doing the Body Scan cd that you recommended, but it’s hard to set aside 45 minutes each day! This is a good way to rethink my stress management plan.

    Here are my goals:

    1. Continue going to yoga at least twice a week (If I can’t make it to class… take my mat out and practice at home!)

    2. Mindful eating! I’m totally taking this idea that someone already mentioned. I eat most meals by myself because my husband works long hours. As a result, I eat my meals in front of the tv, listening to a podcast, or playing a game on my phone. My goal is to eat in my kitchen, at the table! I work so hard to prepare my meals and do I even really taste them?

    3. Meditate for 5 minutes twice a day. I am new at meditating and so it’s hard for me to be still for a long period of time. I used to meditate twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed. I don’t know why I got out of the habit.

    4. Body Scan (45 minutes) 1 or 2 a week. When I first started doing this, I’d try to do it every day. However, it’s not always possible to commit 45 minutes each day.

    By the way, everyone had such great ideas. I’m feeling more relaxed and stress free just after reading them! Time to start my meditation.

    • Amanda,

      Your goals are fantastic! If I may make a suggestion, though – it’s generally more effective to choose one goal that stretches you somewhat but is attainable, than several. This makes it more likely that you will succeed, and then be able to build upon that success with other goals.

      That said, this is just a general guideline when making changes. Feel free to disregard it if you know what works best for you.

      • That’s the overachiever in me! Well I’m already practicing yoga twice a week. To add to that I want to meditate 5 minutes twice a day and eat mindfully!

  26. Ah, great! Here are my goals/commitments:

    1) Sit at the table and eat mindfully (not gobble in front of TV)
    2) Turn off TV/computer by 7:00 p.m.
    3) 5 minutes of breathing every night before bed

    Thanks for putting this out there, Chris!

    • Kathy! How do you manage, breathing only 5 minutes per day? I’ve tried and tried but I’m still breathing 24 hours per day (Happy April Fool’s Day.)

  27. I’m in too!

    1. I’ll be turning off all electronics one hour before bed and start reading paper books again.
    2. I’ll be going back to bikram yoga

    Wish me luck!

  28. Great timing! I really needed this.

    I will go on a walk and do guided meditation daily. I’m so grateful to have a supportive community like this one!

  29. Great! I’m in!
    Here are my goals:
    1.) Take a few minutes to relax before eating and then focus on the meal (not be distracted by reading or TV)
    2.) Meditate (I use the Sedona Method) for 15 minutes before bedtime.
    3.) Add a hike in our nearby state park once a week (weather permitting).
    Thanks for the great idea!

  30. This is so important. Thanks so much for continuing to bring it to our attention.

    It is so easy to not see how stressed we are because it is like the air. It is always there. Even if life is going well, there could still be less stress for almost everyone I know, and certainly for me. I know this. I have had periods in my life when I have meditated twice daily and my life was much the better for it. And I keep intending to get back to a regular schedule.

    These days it seems the computer is my biggest stumbling block. When i get up in the morning, get my coffee I always get on line to check things out….only for a moment, I tell myself. Then I will meditate. But I always find something I just have to know more about or reply to. Then I am just too hooked in –my thoughts become everything and acquiring more ideas and expressing them is so self perpetuating it becomes almost impossible to let go and to take the mental break I really need.

    So for this month I will not get on line till I have meditated.

    That’s my plan: twice daily meditation. Starting now.

    • I agree. I like meditating twice a day. I used to start my day with 5 minutes and then meditate for 5 more minutes right before bed. I agree that you really need to do it before your day gets ahead too hectic.

  31. What would cause me to have a black mark on my face?. That looked like a bruise after being on Rx iron supplements for 3 months. It would appear about 15 minutes after taking the supplement and leave in a couple of hours. Did not hurt but looke like someone punched me in the face.. I don’t need the Rx any more but have added a vitamin c plus iron supplement instead to keep my iron levels up. Blood work in January indicated I was anemic and had Celic disease. My doctor has no idea why the black mark would show up.

  32. You’ve inspired me! I don’t have time for a full lunch break, but if I can’t take out 20 minutes for myself, then I need to re-prioritize my life. I commit to taking a 20 minute walk every day at lunch.

  33. I will be incorporating a qi gong series that I just learned into my daily routine at least a few times per week, shooting for daily! Qi gong is an Asian practice of breathing and gentle movement that raises the qi (“chi” or life energy) in the person.

  34. I’m in… Goals:
    Sit down while eating and slow down (chew, chew, chew)
    Yoga two days/week
    Meditation audio (Personal Paleo Code) 3 days/week
    Hike or Ski for Nature time at least once a week

    Ahhhhh, I feel better already.

  35. I guess I needed this. I’m supposed to be doing the Rest Assured program but never remember. I’ll commit to 15 minutes sometime between arriving at home and bedtime 4 days a week.

  36. Modern life is full of chronic stress that leaves us metabolically deranged and can seriously derail our health. I suggest starting with starting your day with Bible study and prayer, and starting/renewing a commitment to daily family worship. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” (Psalms 119:165)

    Lots of other thought-provoking ideas already posted, thanks everyone!

  37. Many wonderful things have come to my life recently which has left me trying to balance the wonderful new things with my wonderful family. My goal in April is to take a few minutes every morning to reflect on what I am thankful for in my life and then to practice present moment awareness. If one of my teenagers need to talk to me, I am going to physically remove myself from my computer chair and listen to them with both ears rather than one ear listening and one ear reading or typing.

  38. I agree with stress management being very important and have found Buteyko breathing to be very helpful. It’s a big paradigm shift for most in that it teaching you to smooth out and reduce your breathing so that you stop what passes as hidden hyperventilation in a lot of people. It turns out that we actually need carbon dioxide retention more than we need more oxygen; as a matter of fact the carbon dioxide increase allows for more oxygen ( Bohr effect – see your Chemistry book from school). absorption. I have found this paradigm shift similar to that of learning that high fat is better than low fat – it takes a while to get your mind around it. I was married to a CPAP machine for 12 years and have been able to smooth out my breathing and eliminate my severe sleep apnea – which for me is huge. The Buteyko breath training is a huge stress reducer and it’s something I recommend more look at to relieve stress. Deep breathing (meaning big breathing) is the wrong direction.

  39. what an awesome challenge! i wholeheartedly believe that most illnesses/diseases start with or are caused by stress/emotions, which translate into blocked energy. i’d been doing some binaural beat meditations, but i recently discovered an awesome qigong program that really helps me. i’m going to try to do it daily. thanks!

  40. I’m down. This is a fantastic idea. Like you said, so many of us focus and put so much effort toward diet and exercise, and not nearly enough toward stress management.
    I’m going to take 5-10 minutes to practice deep breathing and meditation after every workout I do, along with taking relaxing walks almost every day, and hiking in nature on the weekends when possible. On every hike I will sit and practice deep breathing and mediation for at least 10 minutes.

  41. This is a fun exercise! My goals for April are:

    1) Enjoy the beauty of spring in southern NV. I am bird-watching every morning and enjoying the brief but spectacular blooms of desert plants.
    2) I’ve noticed a few of my regular reads are adding background stress to my day because of negative tones that are unnecessary for constructive consideration. I’m weighing the value/stress involved and may prune a few items from my daily read list.
    3) I’m taking a rest from the “lose weight” mentality. Basically, I’m eating exactly the same foods–and probably the same quantities–but I don’t worry about timing, sequence, macronutrient ratios, etc. Yesterday happened to be a high-drama family day so I chose not to eat any solids. I wasn’t even particularly hungry this morning so it’s noon here now and I haven’t yet eaten solids. I will, when I feel like it–not because I’m supposed to or not supposed to–but because I’m ready to enjoy it.
    4) In May I will shift back to weight loss and hope/expect to lose the remainder of my excess fat. Thanks to April, I hope to be ready for natural/sustained maintenance.

  42. What a great idea, and so timely for me. I will engage in meditation practice every evening, either through my own developed practice of using those great guided meditations from BucchaNet that you referenced recently.

  43. What a great idea! I agree in our culture there is too much focus on perfecting body and not enough on caring for the mind and soul. I’m going to start each day with a series of five sun salutations and then five minutes of meditation. I think I can handle that!

  44. i want to join in. what i would like to do is pause before i eat and say thanks and take a few mindful breaths first. i tend to dive into my food way too quickly! i would also like to try to eat a whole meal mindfully without reading, listening to the radio, or watching TV. i will aim for doing this at least a couple of times a week to start.
    i learned the STOP technique from a therapist i was going to, but haven’t been practicing it, so would like to begin again with that.

    • I love that idea of mindful eating. My husband works long hours so I eat breakfast, lunch and most dinners by myself. I usually eat while watching tv, playing words with friends, or listening to music or a podcast. I put so much effort into preparing the food that I eat, and then I zip through the meal! Do I even really taste what I eat?

  45. Hello, thanks a lot for the read. (I’m not an English speaker so please excuse the flaws.)

    I actually did something similar (stress-relieving “”bootcamp”” 😉 ) just last summer. Due to my hypothyreodism my hair started (and continued ) to fall out rapidly and recognizably, all started very suddenly, so with this immediately gaining my full attention, within a few weeks I went to a panicky phase (I didn’t know about my thyroid at that time). The constant stress very quickly became a problem on its own, so I realised I had to shift at least SOME of my attention from my hair to stress otherwise I thought I would lose the rest to panicking over it anyway. So I “forced” myself to battle it on several different lines at the same time.
    Took up a very gentle jog with my mp3 p.- I used to take it seriously, actually used to run off the work stress a few years ago so there was already a connection with me and sport at least, but with my muscles and all gone, I went back to basics, 2,5-3 hours outside, partly walking, partly jogging, just to get into it again.
    I also looked up some herb teas that are said to be stress relieving, I did even fall for herbtea mixtures named “balance/stress relief/harmony” etc, didn’t care if it’s 80% placebo, I actually believe that even the ceremony counts, as making your remedy tea in the evening, doesn’t matter as long as you take your time to think and/or let go.
    I gave up freetime-reading a long time ago, but then, again took myself to do it, I bought some borderline sort of spiritual/thinker/take your time to be kind of book and took on the habit of reading at least 30 mins with my tea before going to sleep.

    It, among the food-supplement line, within weeks started to work for me, I had to admit it played a huge role in coming to better terms with my hairloss and general well-being (I’m 29, f, so I cannot tell you how hard it hit me, for 1 day to another, seeing my hair go). Naturally (for me at least) I fell back into the old patterns, but I sooo hope to get back on it.

    I actually thank you for the reminder, no doubt I could use another “go” at a “regimen” to restore.. myself really.

    I like to be alone to rest, but I think it’s different for everyone what turns your back on stressing over everything, I can imagine that “recreational” gatherings may be for some the way to go. Anything as long as it breaks the pattern of the treadmill.

    • I’m going through the same thing. I have anxiety attacks all day about my hair. I try to hide my panicky mind from friends and family and it’s so hard. I have a 6 year-old who doesn’t deserve a depressed, anxiety-ridden mom. She’s the only thing that keeps me going. Seriously, the only thing.

      • I’m so sorry for you.. at least I could ‘panick’ as I ‘wished /needed’, I remember one crying tantrum when my parents tried to ask about how things are going. But I don’t know how I would’ve dealt with a kid at the same time. Please do try something – try and go back to your baseline. Not because you want to hide it, not because of your daighter, not because you HAVE to get better, but because you have to find yourself under this whole thing, and then you’ll see where it takes you. My hair isn’t resolved, and I am not happy or OK with it, far from it, but that stress that lasted for idk how many weeks, took out a lot, never want to go back there. When I started those teas and things, I really had no other chane bc I had already let things go /cancelled bc of it, I could’t THINK of anything else, bc none really mattered at some point. So I don’t want to get into the hair-side of it at all, but you CAN do something for the feeling/cognitive-side of it. I wasn’t aiming for a calmer me, but one thing I could do, I could think that I don’t know if it’s gonna work but at least I give a try, a chance, and then I’ll see. So I cut out the mirror, so I wouldn’t stand in front of it for.. sometimes 1,5-2 hours (which now sounds SICK) searching for new growths. So I pinpointed some rules for myself, and this with me, works. All the best for you, truly take care.

  46. For the next 30 days I’m meditating for 30 minutes and spending some time in nature. My intent is to be in awareness & let things be.

    Posting it here is a great idea thank you!

  47. I’m in. This is a great idea! I’ve been wanting to re-implement daily mediation again and this sounds like a time to do it. 🙂

  48. I will spend 15 minutes meditating every morning before work. I like to use this website to help create habits:

    It has you check in every day to see if you completed your goal. It is a great motivator seeing the green thumbs build up over the days (6 days no smoking!).

  49. This is such a great reminder. Here are my goals:
    – Leave the office by 5
    – Practice yoga at least twice a week, focusing on relaxation
    – Go on a hike at least once a week

  50. Well there are 2 routes, removing stress from your life or dealing with it better. After months of unsuccessfully trying to “deal with it” with yoga, meditation, biofeedback, deep breathing… I’m making THE big change to remove stress. Just gave my 2 weeks notice and will be taking an indefinite amount of time off to restore sanity. I’m looking forward to not having a “flight or fight” moment every hour. 🙂

    • Bravo Daytona! I totally agree that eliminating the root causes of our major life stressors is imperative. Just applying a band-aid (even if it is a healthy one) will not heal a festering wound.

      Busting the Stress Cycle: Awareness/Recognition -> Proactive Choice -> Power -> Freedom.

      “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is the power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” – Victor Frankl

    • Awesome! I did the same a while back. You need to do what is necessary. High stress jobs need to be left behind, even if it means reduced or no pay for a while. Getting your mind and true self awareness back as well as finding work with purpose and enjoyment should be at the top of the list.

  51. Sounds like a great plan! My goal is to not use electronics an hour before bed and do some relaxation exercises twice a day, after meals. Gotta give myself a chance to digest!

  52. Hooray!
    As an instructor with eMindful, I am happy to see you bring more awareness to the debilitating effects of stress – on our health, relationships, performance at work and school and our overall outlook on life. I appreciate you recommending the Body Scan practice, as that is a favorite among all my students.

    I’d like to also suggest something that everyone that drives to work or school each morning can do. It is very helpful to create anchors that will cue the mind and body to re-center and let go of stress. With mindfulness practice, bringing awareness onto the breath is a key anchor to move into a calmer state. To add to that, I’d like to suggest each morning, as you head out for the day in your car, do a slightly modified version of the STOP practice*. Sit up with a dignified and self-respectful posture, place your hands on the “10 and 2” position (anchoring), close your eyes, and bring your focus onto the breath, breathing naturally, not forcing the breath to be extra deep (anchoring). Check in to see if there is stress or tension in your body and/or mind, and begin to let it go with the out breath. Bring your awareness onto your emotional heart, and visualize or imagine feelings of peacefulness, grounded-ness, empathy, strength and clarity moving from your emotional heart into your physical heart, and with the breath, flowing throughout the body and mind, touching and enlivening everything in its path, and then exhaling … releasing any toxic stressful energy, visualizing or imagining it flowing out and away with the breath … perhaps even seeing it in your mind’s eye as a fading color, or as ice melting in the spring sun, or as clouds passing in the sky … without getting caught up in a storyline of why it’s there … just let it go. Feel yourself centered and poised, take a couple more breaths, open your eyes and head out into your day, feeling refreshed, energized and clear.

    (* The STOP practice is S – stop what you are doing, T – take some calming breaths, O – observe what is going on inside of you, and P – proceed into what’s important to do next. I add the visualization practice in the mix as people find it to be enlivening.)

    Of course, you don’t need to be in your car to do this, it’s just nice to have that added anchor of the “10 and 2”. It can be helpful to do this anytime you need to relax and refocus – before a meeting, taking a test, prior to a difficult phone conversation you’re about to have, etc. If you’re stressed while driving, pull over and re-center so that road rage doesn’t take you over.

    Best wishes to all!

  53. I’m in. Thanks for doing this, I definitely need to be reminded to lower my stress level. I downloaded the Body Scan meditation you linked to last week and have done it several times and enjoyed it, but need to make it a habit, so I commit to doing it everyday for the next 30 days. I also want to commit to singing and dancing to 1 song each day. I recently got a turntable so I can listen to my old vinyl from the 80s, great dance music! Rereading this post, the word “commit” sounds so serious! Okay, so my goal is to have fun and relax every day, better. Love your blog.

    • I am in a study for post-partum depression and mindfulness based cognitive therapy at a major university. This is an off shoot of MBSR that Chris posted about last week. It’s designed specifically for depression.

      Anyway, we started off with the body scan to learn to connect with our bodies mindfully. Then we have been incorporating new techniques like mindful yoga, breathing and even straight sitting meditation.

      The goal is to try these different techniques and incorporate your favorite meditation/yoga everyday building up slowly to 40 minutes a day. You have to practice and find which one you like best. You have to practice, like building your muscles.

      The program is 8 weeks so that you create this new habit and incorporate it into your daily life.

      I have a lot of resistance to self help (self-sabotage?) so my teacher encouraged me to write down all the reasons I found that I could not meditate in a given evening. The writing exercise was SO FUNNY. I cannot meditate because I need to take out the trash? Or paint my nails, or I don’t FEEL like it (even though it will help me feel better tomorrow?) Very revealing.

      This program has been nothing short of life changing. I have learned that thoughts are just thoughts, and they are not facts and we do not have to believe them. We also have to be gentle to ourselves and let ourselves feel whatever comes up if we need to. But we don’t have to be stuck in negative emoting. It is a pattern, a habit, and not often based in reality or the here and now.

      I’d like to offer this as another good tool like the body scan. The three minute breathing space is very effective when you are doing a meditation practice because during the day you don’t have time to sit down and meditate for 1/2 hour. But you can take three minutes to focus on your breath, and get back in the here and now.

      Read about it and download it here:

      May peace be with you,

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