Long-Term Stress Relief

Scheduling good times. If you do not make time for fun and enjoyment, the world and your children and partner will claim every second you are awake. There are lots of ways to grab a little time for yourself. For instance, a patient of Jan's told her: After I've dropped Jason off at nursery school, I'll come home, make some eggs and toast, and then sit down and eat my breakfast alone. It's just this little ritual I perform for myself. It seems so basic, but what makes it special is doing it in peace and taking the time to really enjoy it, as opposed to gulping down breakfast cereal with the kids at the table, all the while trying to remember if I put the extra cookie in their lunch.

You could make a deal with your partner about breaks for each other, perhaps for half an hour in the evening, or for several hours each weekend. For example, one of Ricki's patients has a monthly dinner "with the girls" in which they all get dressed up and go out to a nice restaurant.

And you could make sure there are times with your kids that are especially enjoyable for you. Make a mental list of what you most like doing with your children, and go out of your way to do those activities on a regular basis. Plus dream up a wish list of new things you'd like to do with your kids, and then do at least some of them. It doesn't have to be a big-ticket item. At a talk Rick gave, one mother laughed when she said. My dream is to go shopping at Wal-Mart with my kids WHILE MY HUSBAND WATCHES THEM!

Focusing on being, rather than doing. Sure there's a lot to do, but you might be running around like the Energizer Bunny much more than you need to: maybe you've got a perfectionist streak, or you may think you need to "make it up to my child" if you feel guilty about needing to work, or you might stay busy as a way to avoid certain feelings.

Every so often, we hope you get a chance to stop all that doing for a bit. Perhaps the In-Box is empty, the baby's asleep, the bills are in the mail. The urgency of the daily round falls away and a quiet fills the air. Your thoughts slow down, no longer grabbed and jostled by tasks. You are present in this moment, not worried about the future. You feel freer, less bound by your burdens, less limited by your roles. The edges soften. Each breath comes like a wave on the seashore, rising and falling, the ocean abiding. There is peace, contentment, warmth, and happiness, just here, just as you are. In this state of mind, you can do tasks as well, but the pot gets stirred or the phone answered in a way that feels much less stressful.

As you relax doing, you will usually experience a growing sense of your innermost being. This core of the self is a fundamental property of the human nervous system. It may be overlooked, but it cannot be tainted or destroyed. All you can do is to uncover it, to allow it to come forward into your daily life. It is always loving, peaceful, and wise, a bottomless well of clarity and strength, detached from the daily craziness, a refuge of nourishment and quiet humor, your own true self.

Experiencing the fact that the essence of your personality is not what you might secretly fear it is provides instant stress relief. Your essence is not bad, unlovable, dreary, empty, or stupid. It is, in fact, radiant with goodness, beautiful to others, and deeply intelligent.

Essential being is an extraordinary resource for anyone, but especially for a mother. In the turbulence of the typical day, your innermost being is a place to watch the storms within you, or between you and others, swell and crash and blow over. From within your being, compassion comes naturally for family and friends, all living things - and for yourself. It lets you hold your own sorrows and pain with a tender concern, helping you remember that you are doing the best you can, that you have already come through a lot simply to stand here today.

For many people, their essential nature is also a window within to the Divine, and they feel most available to God when grounded in their deepest being. One does not need to believe this in order to reap the benefits of cultivating a depth of being. But you may be a person who feels that the spark of God is what gives your essence its light, providing the most profound form of nurturance in your life.

Whatever your spiritual orientation may be, including none at all, a child can help awaken a sense of your innermost being. Children arrive, in the words of Wordsworth, "trailing clouds of glory." The eyes of a child are radiant with a mysterious illumination, and a mother can always replenish herself by letting in that light.


From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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