Posts filed under ‘Stress Reduction Techniques’

The Stress Response

I am excited to announce that my new book is now Available for pre-order from and Barnes and Noble.

Book Description:
Available April 1st, 2012
Stress affects everyone in different ways and can actually help some people become more productive and innovative. But extreme stress more often has a paralyzing effect, and can lead to negative coping behaviors like anger, emotional overreactions, anxiety, and alcohol, drug, or food abuse. This book is the first to offer a dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) program for coping with extreme stress in healthier ways. The four DBT skills can help those prone to overreactions and other negative responses to stress to embrace imperfections, expand their options, and soothe themselves in stressful situations. The Stress Response invites readers to explore their personal stress reactions and practice these new methods of solving the everyday problems that trigger stress. Readers also learn to accept their most stressed-out emotions and thoughts without judging them, and gradually decrease their vulnerability to stress.

Learn more at my website  Follow my new blog on my website.  This blog includes my posts from The Huffington Post, Psych Central and Mental Help Net.


February 27, 2012 at 10:59 am Leave a comment

101 Ways to Hack a Super Stressful Day

If you’re heading back to school or just need a few helpful tips on how to reduce your stress and improve your health, check out the article 101 Ways to Hack a Super Stressful Day at There are a wide range of tips for work, health and managing emotions, some of the tips include: create a mantra, follow a schedule, stop multitasking, accept less than perfect, smile, work out, drink water and take a walk. There are 101 great tips.

May 25, 2010 at 9:09 am 2 comments

The Story of Emotion

Where do emotions come from? Are they simply a wave that rolls over you, unpredictable and unchangable?

Emotions are triggered by events in our environments or in our bodies. Something happens that starts the process of an emotional experience. This could be anything from rain outside to feeling sore from exercise.

It is our thoughts about an event, not the event itself, that determines the emotion we will experience. If it is raining, you might think “I hate the rain” or you might think “At least it’s not snow.” Those two different thoughts will result in very different emotions.

You will feel the emotion as physical sensations in your body. A few examples are that sinking feeling in your stomach, your heart racing, a lack of energy or a burst of energy.

Verbal communication is the ability to name and label the emotion. What does that sinking feeling mean? How about sweaty palms and a racing heart? The ability to name and label your emotions adds a feeling of control and actually can decrease their intensity.

Finally there is an action urge with each emotion. Fear causes us to want to run or hide, anger causes an urge to approach and attack, happiness to reach out to others.

Prompting Event: Something happens
Interpretation: What do you think about he prompting event?
Body Response: What physical sensations do you feel? How does your face change?
Verbal Communication: Can you name the emotion? Can you communicate it verbally to others?
Action Urges: What do you feel

Understanding the story of emotions is an essential step in beginning to change how you feel. You can begin to change how you feel by finding ways to have more pleasant experiences or by changing how you think about the events that are already happening in your life.

May 2, 2010 at 6:21 am 2 comments

Surviving a Crisis with Self-Soothing

When you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed, be kind, gentle, and comforting to yourself. 

VISION:  Look at things that make you feel calm and soothed, like… stars, clouds, sunsets, sunrises, trees, artwork, posters, paintings, flowers, birds, watch the ocean, watch a fire in a fireplace, nice houses, dream catchers, glass animal figurines, stained glass, fish tanks, fireworks, art books, comic books,  waves, the beach, architecture, lakes, pictures of family, dolphins.

 SMELL:  Smell things that are comforting to you, like… cold air, cookouts, incense, scented candles, campfire, salt air at the beach, bubble bath, lotions, baby smell, clean blankets, sheets, and clothes, rain,  shampoo, favorite foods, soap, flowers, roses, deodorant, powder, wood burning, soda (root beer, grape, orange),  tea, potpourri, popcorn, a pillow.

 HEARING:  Listen to things that make you feel calm and gentle, like…  music, chimes, opera, soft rock (Rod Steward—Faith of Heart), Oldies, dolphins, classical music, 80’s music, birds in back yard, Celine Dion, Moody Blues, sounds of fans, being read to by others, tapping of typing, water falls, frogs.

 TASTE:  Taste things that are comforting, like… pudding, ice cream, herbal tea, chocolate, favorite meal, favorite soda, fried eggplant, seltzer,  strawberries, tic tacs, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, spaghetti, shimp, lobster, Popsicles, potato chips,  brownies, a snowflake, pizza, Peanut Butter and Jelly, toothpaste.

 TOUCH:  Touch things that are comforting and soothing, like…petting a cat or dog, running hands under warm water, bubble bath, running fingers through clean hair, pillow, sitting in a recliner, hot bath, laying on satin/ silk sheets, hot shower, cool water on face, comfortable clothes/ silk, walking on the beach (sand and waves), fuzzy blanket,  soaking feet.

Sometimes when we’re stressed and overwhelmed, we forget to take care of ourselves.  Giving yourself time to self-soothe will increase your ability to manage and function during times of stress.

March 20, 2010 at 8:46 am 1 comment

Creating a Soothing Holiday Home

How do you make your home a more soothing, calming, environment this holiday season?  How can you provide opportunities for you and your family to Self soothe?  Ask yourself the following questions:

VISION:  what is pretty and calming to look at around your house?  Are there any decorations that you like to look at that make you feel particularly calm and secure? 

TASTE:  what are soothing tastes and flavors available in the house?  Are there any flavors or tastes that you associate with the holidays, like peppermint, hot chocolate or apple cider? 

TOUCH:  what soothing and calming things are available for to touch in the house?  Are there warm cozy blankets?  A warm fire? Soft clothes? 

HEARING:  what calming, soothing holiday sounds do you have around the house?  How did you provide a calming holiday environment with sound? Do you play holiday music? Focus on conversation? Have a crackling fire?

SMELL:  what smells like the holidays to you, around your house?

December 16, 2009 at 9:59 am Leave a comment

Holiday Stress Survival Tips

Top Ten Relaxation Tips to Sooth your Mind and Body during the Holiday Season

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=macy%27s+day+parade&iid=7146036″ src=”d/6/9/c/MACYS_THANKSGIVING_DAY_e228.jpg?adImageId=7918231&imageId=7146036″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]
During the holidays we are often surrounded with images of people who are happy, in love and enjoying the whirlwind of their lives. However, in reality this time of year can be tiring or bring up painful feelings. Wouldn’t it be nice to get through the season with just a little less stress and a few more moments and calm and peace? The following tips are designed to help you find relaxation during this busy time and also to improve how you are thinking or feeling about the moment and the season.
1. Find Meaning in the Season. Find or reconnect to a purpose, meaning or value during the season. Focus on the positive aspects of the holidays and the season.
2. Muscle relaxation: After a day on your feet, shopping, partying or otherwise extolling holiday cheer sit down and relax your muscles by tensing and relaxing each large muscle group, starting with your hands and arms, going to your head and then working down.
3. Do only One Thing in the moment: Doing just one thing can give you time to settle down in the midst of a frantic or chaotic day. Focus your entire attention on what you are doing now. Let go of the mental list making, worrying, party planning, etc. Put your mind in the present and focus your entire attention on physical sensations, such as walking, washing dishes, or decorating.
4. Give yourself a Vacation: You don’t need to go to Bermuda to take a vacation this time of year. Give yourself a brief break from all the hubbub. Get in bed and pull the covers over your head. Take 15 minutes to immerse yourself in your favorite book, take a long bath, ask your husband to make you dinner, or wrap up in a comfy blanket and watch your favorite movie.
5. Contribute: Contributing can give a sense of meaning and make you feel good about yourself. Give something to someone else, do volunteer work or do a surprising, thoughtful thing.
6. If you’re feeling down, do something Opposite to how you feel. Let’s face it, if your life isn’t picture perfect the holidays can bring up sadness, regrets and other painful emotions. Change your mood and how you’re feeling by engaging activities that are opposite to how you are feeling. Read emotional books,listen to emotional music or go to emotional movies. If you’re down, do something upbeat like call a friend, buy gifts, exercise, flirt with your husband, go out to dinner, take your children someplace special, say “I love you” or think of something you did well.
7. Self Soothe with Taste: Instead of going to a holiday party and grazing on appetizers without really tasting anything, choose one and slow down and really taste it. Or at home have a good meal or favorite soothing drink. Really taste the food or drink.
8. Comfort yourself: Do something nurturing, gentle and kind for yourself. Look outside at nature or at some beautiful decorations, listen to music that you find particularly soothing or sing your favorite songs. Surround yourself with soothing comforting smells, like the smell of pine, cookies baking or cinnamon. Massage your feet, put on a silky blouse or scarf or hug someone.
9. Deep Breathing: Lie on your back, breathing evenly and gently. Focus your attention on your breath, coming in and out and the movement of your stomach. As your breath in, allow your stomach to rise. Exhale fully pushing all the air out of your lungs. Continue for 10 breaths.
10. Clean the house: The holidays often bring extra chores and cleaning. Use them as an opportunity to self soothe, rather than as an additional stress. Divide your work into stages: straightening things and putting them away,then scrubbing and cleaning. Allow a good length of time for each task. Move slowly (3 times more slowly than usual) and focus your attention fully on each task. Maintain awareness of your actions and your thoughts if they wander. Bring them back to full attention on the task at hand.

November 29, 2009 at 8:25 am Leave a comment

Mindfulness to help you sleep

We all have nights when sleep seems elusive, but some of us experience sleep problems and insomnia with regularity.  Recent research has indicated that mindfulness can help improve sleep.  Below are a  few exercises you might try when you’re tossing and turning.

When you notice you’re having trouble sleeping, begin by bringing your attention and awareness to what is going on in your mind and body.  Notice if you are worrying or thinking about something.  Are your thoughts racing?  Are they triggering emotions that are not calm and relaxing?  If you get distracted and wrapped up in your thinking again, just notice that, label the thoughts you were distracted by (you might label them as worries, or simply label them as thoughts of the  “past”, “future” or “fantasies”).  Bring your mind back, again and again to simply observing your thoughts.

Do the same with your body.  Bring your full attention to your body.  Scan from head to toe.  Are you holding tension?  Do you have discomfort or pain that is interfering with sleep?  In this season of colds and flu, are you congested or feeling sick?

Once you’ve attended to what is interfering with sleep, choose a mindfulness exercise to help you get calm and relaxed.

If you need to focus your thoughts, try breathing exercises. A few breathing exercises that can be useful when trying to get to sleep include: counting with each breath from 1-10, repeating as necessary; saying  “in” and “out” with each inhalation and exhalation; breathing out until you feel your lungs entirely empty of air and then breathing in feeling them fill from bottom to top- repeat 4 times; or breathing out while imagining your entire body from head to toe emptying of air and breathing in and imagining your entire body filling up.  With each exercise, notice if you become distracted and return your thoughts to your breath.  Repeat as often as necessary.  Mindfulness exercises become easier and distractions lesson over time.

If you have noticed that discomfort and tension in your body is keeping you from sleep, you may want to try a body scan and tension reduction exercise.  You may simply scan your body from head to toe and relax each area of your body as you bring your attention to it.  Or you may tense muscle groups, like the hands, feet and face for several seconds and then relax those muscles.  You can repeat these exercises until your body is feeling more relaxed. As with the breathing exercises, bring your mind back if you become distracted.

November 16, 2009 at 10:33 am 1 comment

4 Strategies to improve how you feel

If you’re bogged down in negative emotions or stressed and overwhelmed, maybe it’s time to take a step back and refocus.  Usually when you feel stressed, angry, upset or sad, you do so for good reason. If that’s the case, you may need to make a more conscious effort to build positive experiences into your life.

  1. Do pleasant things today. Don’t underestimate the power a few immediate positive experiences will have on your mood and emotions. Schedule at least one thing a day that makes you feel good. It could be anything:  a phone call with a friend, listening to music, exercising, eating food you love, lighting candles or being alone.
  2. Make long term changes that will bring more positive events. Set goals of positive things you want and the small steps towards those goals. Again, schedule the small steps into your daily life.  Pay attention to the people around you. Make sure to keep your relationships strong or build or repair relationships, if you have conflict in your life.  Don’t give up.
  3. Focus on positive experiences.  Emotions last only a few seconds. However thinking about and focusing on events can keep those emotions around for much longer.  Notice if you tend to focus on the negative.  If that’s the case, refocus on the positive events in your life.
  4. Let go of worrying. If you notice yourself worried about problems in your life, what is expected of you or all you need to do, let it go. Refocus back onto the positive aspects of your life and the goals you have set for yourself.

Don’t let negative emotions and stress take over your life. If you have good reason to feel bad, take a look at what’s making you stressed and make some positive changes.

October 2, 2009 at 6:48 pm 2 comments

Mindfulness for Work and School Stress

Appreciating how the brain works when experiencing stress is critical to understanding how to reduce recurrent stress in certain situations, such as at school or at work. 

Chronic Stress

In a study of the effects of chronic stress, Eduardo Dias-Ferreira and colleagues found that stress responses become habitual, over time.  This means that we develop a habit of becoming stressed in certain situations and respond to those situations with the same stressed behaviors repeatedly.  If you are someone who experiences stress and anxiety about completing school papers, taking tests, participating in classes, attending meetings or completing work tasks, your stress and anxiety may be habitual.  You may also be reacting to these situations out of your habitual stress, which means your actions are unlikely to be effective.

Research on Meditation

There is a growing body of research that shows that meditation and mindfulness alter how the brain works.  Dr. Sarah Lazar, a research scientist at Harvard Medical School’s Massachusetts General Hospital, presented a study at Neuroscience 2005, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.  Her research found that meditation had a measurable effect on the brain that lasted beyond the act of meditating.  This indicates that meditation and mindfulness may have a positive impact on day to day life.

Mindfulness Exercises to Reduce School and Work Stress

Mindfulness is about learning to focus attention, which is a necessary skill when unlearning negative, habituated responses.  There are hundreds and thousands of mindfulness exercises that can help to focus attention and decrease stress.  To combat work or school stress try breathing exercises, which can be done anytime and anyplace.  Other mindfulness activities include becoming aware of your body position and relaxing muscles that have tightened due to tension, creating a mantra (“I am calm”, “rise above it”), or noticing thoughts and labeling them as “just thoughts” as they come in and out of your mind.  


The three key factors in utilizing mindfulness effectively to reduce stress are to try different activities until you find what works for you, practice bringing your attention back, once you get distracted, and practice often and in various situations.  It is essential to practice mindfulness exercises regularly.  When you are practicing mindfulness, you will find that your attention wanders.  Likely it will wander back to those stressful and anxiety producing thoughts.  When this happens, just notice it and gently bring your mind back to your mindfulness exercise.  Repeat this process over and over as often as necessary.

September 11, 2009 at 2:32 pm Leave a comment


Acceptance is the act of letting go of fighting reality. It is accepting the world as it is completely from deep within. When you are feeling miserable, acceptance is the only way out.

Pain, sadness and unhappiness are normal human emotions and nature’s way of signaling that something is wrong or something needs to be done. If you put your hand on a hot stove, the pain causes you to move your hand. Grief causes us to value our connections and the people we’re close to. Fear makes us avoid dangerous situations. And anger motivates us to assert ourselves and overcome obstacles.

Feelings of anger and sadness turn to fury, depression and misery when we refuse to accept the painful events that have caused them. When we cling to getting what we want, instead of accepting what we have, we turn our pain into suffering

I have a friend who wants success in her career. She’s smart, capable, resourceful and good at her job. She also is the primary caretaker for her family. Each time she begins to gain career success, her family obligations interfere. A sick child will keep her from following through on an important project. She will miss an important call because she needs to be home in the evening. She doesn’t accept the limitations caring for her family places on her career and, as a result, doesn’t communicate to co-workers and supervisors. Their expectations of her are high and she is continually disappointing them. After tension and dissatisfaction on both sides she ultimately leaves jobs and has to start over again. Sometimes she complains and blames her problems on bad luck and people who are ‘out to get her’. At other times she internalizes her work problems and feels inadequate and incompetent. She is often miserable.

My friend’s situation is not ideal. Her desire for a successful career is in conflict with her responsibilities to her family. But it’s her inability to accept the current situation that is making her miserable. It is difficult and sometimes painful to balance career and family. Someone is often feeling short changed. However, her inability to accept that she must make some adustments to her career, in order to care for her family, makes her miserable. She makes commitments that she is unable to keep, which lead to disappointment. She then blames or internalizes her negative feelings.

If there is an area of your life in which you are fighting reality, focus on accepting the situation as it is. Try to let go of how things ‘should be’ or how you want them to be and accept, from deep down, how they are.

August 31, 2009 at 1:43 pm 1 comment

Older Posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 65 other subscribers


Follow Me On Twitter