Getting Stress Under Control

Feeling tense? We asked two Denver stress experts for simple ways to make Zen part of your daily routine.


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SCOTT TREAS, life coach, therapist, and owner of Lifesketch, who specializes in work stress and burnout, offers these tips:

NAME YOUR STRESS. “Where am I holding the tension? What does it feel like? If you can, write down or say those answers out loud, along with what is causing the stress. Focusing on stress rather than trying to escape makes it smaller.”

GET BACK IN THE MOMENT. “One of my favorite exercises is ‘four square breathing,’ where you breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and hold for four seconds. You can also use your five senses. Let’s say you’re eating a clementine: What does the peel feel like? How does it smell when you’re opening it? What does the clementine taste like?”

DO SOMETHING POWERFUL. “Cortisol is released into your body when you’re feeling heavy stress. It creates that fight-or-flight response that would help you, say, be able to run through a sticker bush when a bear is chasing you. Explosive body movements like squats, pushups, or sprints mimic that response and help release cortisol, to protect your immune system.”

GO SMALL. In the long run, “small, gradual behaviors can have a big impact. I think of life in seasons. Embrace, for instance, the fact that school starts in fall and you’ll likely be really busy for that time. Also, establish routines, like a bedtime routine, and define current single-task life roles, like ‘I am a parent at this time’ or ‘I am an employee at this time.’ ”

JANET SOLYNTJES, a certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher and co-founder of The Center for Courageous Living, has these three suggestions:

STOP. “Literally stop and just breathe. Your breath is connected to the body’s calming system, so if we can connect with it while we’re doing nothing— really doing nothing—it helps right away.”

HAVE GO-TO MEDITATION ROUTINES. “You need to have some kind of regular meditation, whether it’s yoga, sitting in a quiet space, or creating a breathing exercise, that helps you let go of stressful thoughts so the process is purposeful rather than accidental. You want to have the tools to fight stress every time you feel it—say, during a traffic jam.”

TRY MINDULNESS-BASED STRESS REDUCTION. “There’s no quick answer to stress. It requires a thorough process over a long period of time because stressful habits have been developing for a long time. MBSR programs are eight weeks long, with participants meeting two and a half hours once a week, plus for a one-day silent retreat.”


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