Dr. Kim Foster: Wicked Health


The 60 Second Stress Buster You Need to Learn

Zen Mummy

Got stress? (Who doesn’t?) Got time to soothe those worries away with regular spa appointments? Or chill out in the bath every night with a good book? Or go for a nice, long daily walk in the woods?

Um, no.

The problem with most of our stress-management tactics: they take too much time! Which is ironic, considering that much of mom-stress comes from not having enough time in the first place.

So here’s a quick stress-detox strategy that will hardly take any time at all:


I know, it sounds overly simplistic. But hear me out.

Breathing exercises and breath awareness are core components of many healthy practices, like yoga and meditation. This is no coincidence. Breathing exercises have been found to be effective for: anxiety disorders, panic attacks, depression, headaches, and fatigue. To name a few.

If you don’t take my word for it, listen to Andrew Weil, MD. He calls breathing “the master key to self-healing.”

So how do you seize the power of this simple tool?

There are many ways to do it, and myriad breathing exercises, but the basic key is abdominal breathing.

Most of us, during the day, breathe using "chest breathing." This is a shallow, relatively less effective way of breathing that merely expands the rib cage to get air in. When something stressful happens, our breathing becomes even more shallow, and often irregular. Our shoulders rise to help pull air into the upper parts of our lungs, but it's a weak effort (and leads to shoulder and neck tension, besides).

The opposite of all that is abdominal, or diaphragmatic breathing. Abdominal breathing uses the diaphragm (a large, sheetlike muscle at the base of our lungs) to fills our lungs more deeply, more fully. First, you need to learn how to do it. Follow these steps:

  • Lie down on your back.
  • Place one hand on flat on your stomach, the other on your chest.
  • Breathe in through your nose, and allow your abdomen to rise under your hand. Try to keep the hand on your chest still.
  • Exhale fully, allowing your abdomen to sink naturally back down.

And that's all there is to it!

Once you know how to breathe using your diaphragm, you can practice abdominal breathing in any posture, sitting or standing. Try to do some abdominal breathing every day, at least twice a day if you can manage it. Use any little irritation during your day (say, long line-up at Starbucks?) as a trigger to practice.

Notice the amazing, calming, warming effect. Abdominal breathing is the simplest and quickest way of accessing the relaxation response. Next time you're in a stressful situation (the phone rings: your accident-prone kid’s school is calling...) try taking three nice, slow abdominal breaths. You'll be surprised at how effective this one small intervention can be. 

So how about you? Do you have a quick and easy stress strategy that you use?

If you've got the breathing thing down, and you'd like more stress-busting ideas, read this next.