© Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and Jan Hanson, L.Ac. 2001, 2002
10 Ways to Lower 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 mothering,
you may as well get used to it." Then she changed the subject, as if she
were passing down some unwritten rule of motherhood: I suffered, and so
To us, that view makes no sense. Nurturing yourself is what enables you
to be at your best for your children. Further, mothering 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 mother can lower her stress level and start
feeling immediately better:
1. Remember that your inner experience matters in its own right, plus
nurturing yourself is the absolute foundation of caring for your
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
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 mother 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
10. If it's meaningful for you to do so, nourish within yourself and
draw on a spiritual awareness.