How to Lower Your Stress

How to Lower Your Stress

“I’ve got a two-year-old plus a newborn and I was telling my own mom how stressed out I was. She interrupted and said, “That’s just parenting, you may as well get used to it.” Then she changed the subject, as if she were passing down some unwritten rule of parenthood: I suffered, and so should you.”

To us, that view makes no sense. Nurturing yourself is what enables you to be at your best for your children. Further, parenting is not a hobby you picked up for fun. You work hard for the sake of your children and family, and that entitles you to respect, care – and stress relief.

Here are 10 key ways a parent can lower their stress level and start feeling immediately better.

And most of them are pretty applicable to partners and children, too!

1.  Remember that your inner experience matters in its own right, plus nurturing yourself is the absolute foundation of caring for your children.

2. The accumulation of moments of stress makes a world of difference, so do small things throughout the day to keep your stress meter out of the “red zone.”

3. More fundamentally, systematically focus on letting go of stress in your body, mental images, emotions, desires, and thoughts.

4. In particular, try to let go of unrealistic expectations about the sort of parent you are “supposed” to be.

5. Even more deeply, reflect on how your childhood is increasing your stress today (like intensifying your emotional reactions); bring compassion to the young parts of yourself; try to sort apart the intensified “young” reactions from the more moderate, here-and-now ones; try to let go of the deepest level of your distress, like making sure you get the tip of the dandelion’s root to prevent it from growing back.

6. Try to accept your inner experience for what it is, so you don’t add further stress to whatever your experience might be. There is nothing shameful about whatever arises unbidden in the mind: accepting it is not the same as acting on it.

7. Let positive experiences sink deeply into your emotional memory banks, soothing and even dislodging negative ones.

8. Overall, be active in your own mind, ultimately in charge of it, like the skillful rider of a high-spirited horse.

9. Commit to daily practices – like journaling, meditation, walks, music, or art – that nurture you and deepen your capacity to stand apart from the inevitable, endless ups and downs of your inner and outer worlds.

10. If it’s meaningful for you to do so, nourish within yourself and draw on a spiritual awareness.

This is an article adapted from the book Mother Nurture by Rick Hanson, Ph.D., Jan Hanson, M.S. and Ricki Pollycove, M.D.



Dr. Ramani Durvasula is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and expert on the impact of toxic narcissism. She is a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and also a Visiting Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

The focus of Dr. Ramani’s clinical, academic, and consultative work is the etiology and impact of narcissism and high-conflict, entitled, antagonistic personality styles on human relationships, mental health, and societal expectations. She has spoken on these issues to clinicians, educators, and researchers around the world.

She is the author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, and Don't You Know Who I Am? How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Her work has been featured at SxSW, TEDx, and on a wide range of media platforms including Red Table Talk, the Today Show, Oxygen, Investigation Discovery, and Bravo, and she is a featured expert on the digital media mental health platform MedCircle. Dr. Durvasula’s research on personality disorders has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and she is a Consulting Editor of the scientific journal Behavioral Medicine.

Dr. Stephen Porges is a Distinguished University Scientist at Indiana University, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and Professor Emeritus at both the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Maryland. He is a former president of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and has been president of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences, which represents approximately twenty-thousand biobehavioral scientists. He’s led a number of other organizations and received a wide variety of professional awards.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the mammalian autonomic nervous system to social behavior and emphasizes the importance of physiological states in the expression of behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders. The theory is leading to innovative treatments based on insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders, and has had a major impact on the field of psychology.

Dr. Porges has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers across a wide array of disciplines. He’s also the author of several books including The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation.

Dr. Bruce Perry is the Principal of the Neurosequential Network, Senior Fellow of The ChildTrauma Academy, and a Professor (Adjunct) in the Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. From 1993 to 2001 he was the Thomas S. Trammell Research Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of psychiatry at Texas Children's Hospital.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of trauma in childhood, and his work on the impact of abuse, neglect, and trauma on the developing brain has impacted clinical practice, programs, and policy across the world. His work has been instrumental in describing how traumatic events in childhood change the biology of the brain.

Dr. Perry's most recent book, What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, co-authored with Oprah Winfrey, was released earlier this year. Dr. Perry is also the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, a bestselling book based on his work with maltreated children, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. Additionally, he’s authored more than 300 journal articles and book chapters and has been the recipient of a variety of professional awards.

Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith is a child clinical psychologist who specializes in trauma and issues of race. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard and then received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She performed postdoctoral work at the University of California San Francisco/San Francisco General Hospital. She has combined her love of teaching and advocacy by serving as a professor and by directing mental health programs for children experiencing trauma, homelessness, or foster care.

Dr. Briscoe-Smith is also a senior fellow of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and is both a professor and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Wright Institute. She provides consultation and training to nonprofits and schools on how to support trauma-informed practices and cultural accountability.

Sharon Salzberg is a world-renowned teacher and New York Times bestselling author. She is widely considered one of the most influential individuals in bringing mindfulness practices to the West, and co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts alongside Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein. Sharon has been a student of Dipa Ma, Anagarika Munindra, and Sayadaw U Pandita alongside other masters.

Sharon has authored 10 books, and is the host of the fantastic Metta Hour podcast. She was a contributing editor of Oprah’s O Magazine, had her work featured in Time and on NPR, and contributed to panels alongside the Dalai Lama.

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