Stress Management Techniques

                                                        Stress Management by Gayle Kimball

Excerpted from Your Mindful Guide to Academic Success: Beat Burnout


The Physiology of Stress

Adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and secrete hormones that get the body ready for flight or fight. The body responds to stress with adrenaline and cortisol, which raises blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar to help with fight or flight. Muscles tighten. Signs of distress include: irritability, fuzziness, fatigue, anxiety, frustration, forgetfulness, sighing, crying, stuttering, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, grinding teeth, upset stomach, headache, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, skin rashes, allergies, loss of sexual interest, back pain, nervous tics, loss of humor, withdrawal, hopelessness, eating too much or too little, digestive problems, and smoking and drinking to try to calm down. Other signs of stress are feeling tense, hurried, and pressured. Some people react to stress by flight—withdrawing, freezing up, or spacing out; and others by fight—getting angry.

Many of us get addicted to the adrenaline rush of fast-pace rushing, called the most common drug addiction. Stress is “one of the most serious health issues,” according to the International Labor Organization. Chronic stress impairs the immune system, leading to disease, which costs employers and governments money in absenteeism and health care costs. Around 25% of the US workforce suffers from excessive stress or anxiety ( Long-term stress contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers (according to a study of caregivers of relatives with dementia), divorce, and workplace accidents and injuries. Research shows that tumors transplanted into rats living in stressful situations grow more rapidly. Even wounds take longer to heal when we’re stressed; they took about 40% longer in an Ohio State University study of dental students.

Stress alters the body’s chemistry: Stress hormones encourage formation of fat cells and craving for sugar and fat. A study at Georgetown University, led by Zofia Zukowska, found that mice that were stressed and fed a diet high in sugar and salt gained about twice as much fat in their bellies as non-stressed mice with the same diet.[i] The fat is filled with chemical signals that promote illness and “metabolic syndrome” that includes high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Chronic secretion of adrenal hormones such as cortisol is taxing. Toxic and chronic stress results in health problems in adulthood.[ii] Author Dr. Andrew Weil tells us that sympathetic nervous system (SNS) response to chronic stress leads to increase in heartbeat and blood pressure, increased blood sugar, cold extremities, and slowed digestion. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) reverses the effects of the SNS and creates a sense of well-being. Stress lowers the immune system, increases the risk of a heart attack, lowers estrogen production in women, may narrow blood vessels in the brain causing headaches and can make skin problems like acne worse.[iii] As much as 80% of disease and illness is initiated and aggravated by stress.[iv]

How do our emotions influence our bodies and visa versa? Our cells generate emotion, according to neuroscientist Candace Pert, Ph.D., author of Molecules of Emotion. Every cell has hundreds of thousands of receptor molecules, each programmed to attract and bind with a certain kind of peptide. Millions of cell receptors dance and move in different states on the surface of our cells, as they bond with their type of ligands, some of which are chemical messengers called the neuropeptides. They’re associated with different emotions like bliss, anxiety, or excitement.

Dr. Pert discovered that opiate receptors are found on cells all over the body, not just in the emotional/limbic center of the mid-brain. For example, when an endorphin neuropeptide ligand bonds to its receptor, the cell experiences the emotion of pleasure. The molecules of emotion are found even in single cell animals. The implication is that emotion is generated by the cells and also stored there as memories in the “unconscious mind.” The limbic mid-brain receives the information from the body and sends it to the frontal cortex where we become conscious of the feeling. The old view that the brain controls the body is not accurate. Dr. Pert recommends meditation, bodywork, and other natural ways to allow the memories to percolate up to consciousness so they can be released. (A summary of The Molecules of Emotion is available on the global youth book site.[v])


Causes of Stress

The Dalai Lama said to a crowd of young people in San Francisco in 2009, “You are the source of hope.” He advised them, “You should prepare in your mind that life is not easy. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” In developed nations, time pressures challenge families. About half of the 600 teens surveyed for a 2013 HealthFocus International study said they were “extremely or very concerned” with stress. About 60% of teens said they worry about their parents’ financial situation, 40% worry they won’t be able to find a job after they finish their education; and 60% believe that it’s up to their generation to save the planet. A 2001 poll reported almost 75% of US teens said they felt nervous or stressed at least some of the time and half said they often felt this way.[vi] A survey of parents in the San Francisco Bay Area asked what issues affecting their teens, the parents’ top concern was stress (mostly about school but also family problems), followed by their children’s weight, depression, use of drugs and alcohol and school discipline problems.[vii]

An older survey of teens in 12 countries in 1997 reported their main cause of stress was school.[viii] The authors were surprised that they didn’t mention health problems such as AIDS and drug use. The teens coped by trying to handle the problem on their own by thinking about it, or they ignored it, or turned to a friend for help. Mostly middle-class teens from 44 countries reported on their worries to Elissa Moses:[ix]


  1. Getting a good job, 70%
  2. My parents’ health, 63%
  3. Losing someone I love, 57%
  4. Finishing my education, 54%
  5. My own health, 54%
  6. Getting a university degree, 52%
  7. Not getting good grades, 50%
  8. Not having enough money, 46%
  9. Finding someone to love, 43%
  10. AIDS, 43%


The following quotes from SpeakOut students illustrate that the causes of stress and sources of worry are having more to do than time permits, disorganization, feeling overwhelmed and irritated, procrastination, perfectionism, and “hurry sickness” where we try to pack too much into a day and don’t allow enough time to relax and make transitions. As you read, think about ways to counter your stressors so you can relax and enjoy life while achieving your goals.


Time Pressures


Relationship Stress

A British professor found that we’re happier when people around us are happy, since attitudes move through social networks “like ripples from pebbles thrown into a pond.”[x] Happiness grows from connecting to others you like, with love, and respect. Archana (17, f, India) is stressed by people who use harsh words to hurt others. The way she copes is by imagining just hearing it in one ear and letting it go out the other side and by meditating. Another way to be in charge of your thoughts is to imagine little movies, like visualize a typhoon whirling around you, but moving to the still center of the storm, the eye of the hurricane. Or you can imagine being a tree with a giant taproot, deep into the center of the earth, anchoring you like a strong tree that the wind can’t blow over. We need to avoid or protect against toxic people who are pessimistic, negative or critical, gossiping or drain energy from others.

A teenager who considers himself popular says his secrets of success are to risk getting to know strangers, listen well to people and ask them questions so they know he is interested in them. He suggests having the courage to be yourself, pick friends who like you for who you are, and don’t discriminate against unpopular students. Liking yourself is important if you expect other people to like you. Being confident without being conceited is attractive, so practice your self-esteem techniques and keep adding to your journal’s daily list of qualities you like about yourself. Observe well-liked and respected students to see what they do. But quality is more important than quantity of friends. Depending on their personality type, some introverts are happier with a few good friends while extroverts like to meet and greet many friends. One style is not better than the other.

Communication skills make all the difference in getting our needs met. Don’t blame. Stick to how you feel and suggest solutions. Read about effective communication skills, such as in my anthology Everything You Need to Know to Succeed After College. Have realistic expectations, knowing that just because someone is an adult doesn’t guarantee he or she will behave maturely.


Poverty Issues are Stressful; Money Management

See my suggestions for handling money and work on the Global Youth SpeakOut website.[xi] Websites like CashCourse and provide free financial information and tools for money management.[xii] The Marketplace radio show provides useful financial suggestions in a 2017 series titled “Graduating Into the Economy.”[xiii] The online transcript includes how to land a great job, how to build your credit, and how to save money. Get in the habit of saving at least a little money each month because compound interest adds up significantly over time. Check out what you’ll earn from saving accounts, bonds, IRAs, etc.[xiv]



         Trying to do all our tasks perfectly is impossible and only leads to frustration and fatigue. We need to sleep and eat. When I had a history seminar in my senior year at university, the professor assigned an enormous amount of weekly reading. With four other classes, I didn’t have time to read it all carefully so I skimmed the material, reading subtitles, introductions and conclusions, which made me really think about the main points. I got an “A” in the course.



To make the decision-making process clearer, write down the pros and cons of each option. You can give numerical weight to values that are especially important to you. You’ll end up with a score for each option. Sleep on it and see if you wake up with more clarity. Ask for information from people who may know more about your issue than you do or have experience with it. Make a commitment to follow through with the highest-ranking option for a month, and wait until then to re-evaluate. But during the month, don’t allow yourself to second guess, doubt, regret, or worry about your decision. Save that for the end of the month.



Now we look at coping techniques to reduce stress. Resilience is being able to recover from a difficult challenge, rather than being defeated. I made free-access videos to illustrate some of these coping and balancing techniques.[xv] Some of the research showing the efficacy of ancient balancing practices is provided on the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.[xvi] Workshops on how to reduce stress and test anxiety and other useful topics for students are available online, as on Harvard University Resilience Consortium website.[xvii] A Harvard University psychologist suggests transforming stress into productivity by viewing it as an opportunity to enhance performance on a test or other challenge, hanging out with positive friends, focusing on what you can control, and practicing coping techniques with small stressors so you’re prepared for larger ones.[xviii] Negative ways to deal with stress are taking drugs, risk taking, and extremist fundamentalism. Some people react to stress by withdrawing or spacing out, others freeze up, while some become angry. Schools need to teach students how to cope with stress.

Many youth from high-risk environments achieve good outcomes, especially the women.[xix] In the US, two out of 10 children live in poverty, over 2.5 million children have a parent in jail, and too many face abuse or homelessness.[xx] Specifically, one-third of children growing up in high-risk homes in Kauai became well-adjusted adults, according to a study by Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith. What helped the children was getting emotional support from a mentor and involvement in a community group. They need to know they matter to someone who cares about them. These facts may seem a low score on a test not seem like such a big deal.

Why do some people get through stressful events less defeated than others? A psychiatry professor explained, “Resilient people are like trees bending in the wind. They bounce back.” [xxi] They get support from and help other people, they think of the glass as half full rather than half empty, they’re spiritual, they’re playful, and they take good care of themselves. Identify support sources you have now and could cultivate at home, at school, and in the community. Shehroz reported in Pakistan, “My best stress reliever is my little cousin or any small kid. My cousin is one year old. He makes me laugh by just looking at him trying to stand up or figuring out the world. My grandparents say that seeing kids grow up is the best way to cope with stress.”

The opposite of what’s called resilience, grit, growth mindset, hardiness, and an internal locus of control is feeling helpless, overwhelmed and hopeless with an external locus of control–feeling controlled by others. Educators are interested in learning how to teach resilience skills (such as the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Harvard Education Department’s Making Caring Common Project), the study of how to not be defeated by challenges and how to use them to grow stronger. A free “Grit Assessment” by Angela Duckworth is available online.[xxii] Resilient people have the strength of character to risk making mistakes to stretch their abilities and follow up on reasonable goals. They take responsibility and don’t blame others. If a student doesn’t do well on a test, instead of blaming the teacher, she or he can ask the teacher for suggestions about how to study more effectively.

Psychologist Carol Dweck developed a technique for achievement by understanding that we can develop our abilities and not just by trying harder: “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and the resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.” She explains more in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and a useful video by Trevor Reagan also explains the importance in believing that we can grow and learn.[xxiii]

One way to cope with a difficult problem is to break it down into parts and tackle them bit-by-bit. I was overwhelmed in graduate school by a requirement to write a paper about an abstract and complex Austrian philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein. The reading became manageable when I committed to 50 pages a day. I had to really concentrate because the book was so difficult, so I ended up writing an “A” paper despite my original feeling of helplessness because I divided it up into manageable parts that allowed me to feel more confidant.

Another way to cope with challenges is to use positive self-talk, e.g., “This is difficult, but I will break it down into manageable parts.” Part of being human is we make mistakes and learn from them, as we evolve throughout our lives. We can expect to make errors of judgment with the intention of not repeating them. Can you think of mistakes that taught you valuable lessons? Resilient people think of themselves as survivors rather than poor-me victims. Another characteristic of resilient people is they’re positive and optimistic. They express gratitude rather than focusing on what they don’t like. When you have a self-defeating “I can’t” thought, acknowledge the negative habit and replace it with a solution such as, “I’ll get help and do my best.”

The foibles of human nature bothers SpeakOut survey respondents the most, followed by school, and social problems like poverty and violence. They ways they cope are:

  1. Physical activities like sports and exercise, deep breathing, keeping busy, and      games
  2. Talking with their support network of friends and family
  3. Music
  4. Meditation, prayer and positive thinking
  5. Reading
  6. Religious beliefs


The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper asked nine teens how they coped with stress. They use music to relax, dancing, sleep, journal writing, screaming out angry feelings, sports, playing with pets, resisting peer pressure to act like a gangster by hanging out with nerds, and video games blasting characters on the screen: “It just feels so good to see your character blasting another character’s head off while having a tank come up from behind to blow the enemy encampment to hell.”[xxiv]



Music is a medium that reaches everyone. Music was also very popular in a global electronic survey of 1,400 youth conducted by an international NGO, TakingITGlobal.[xxv] Listening to relaxing music reduces stress-hormone levels and can boost the immune system, according to research by Cheryl Dileo at Temple University.[xxvi]



To deal with stress, take breaks throughout the day to breathe and smile. Depressed people often don’t breathe deeply. Deep breathing where the diaphragm moves the belly up and down is a simple tool we can use throughout the day. Shrug your shoulders and let them drop saying, “I am relaxing.”

Deep breathing gets oxygen to the brain and a long exhalation activates the parasympathetic system to relax.


*Do conscious breathing throughout the day to relax: Breathe in for the count of 8 from your belly, hold for 8, exhale through the mouth like keeping a feather up for 8, and then don’t inhale for as long as comfortable. This resets the energy field, a useful action to take if you feel anxious. You can breathe in with your tongue up behind your upper teeth and exhale with your tongue behind the lower teeth. This has a calming effect because it links the governing and central meridians that travel up the spine and up the midline of the front of the torso. Also, try alternate nostril breathing used in yoga. Put your thumb on left nostril to close it. Breathe in the right nostril, shut it with your middle finger, and exhale out of the left side. The main point is not to breathe shallow quick breaths, which signal stress to the body, but deep slow breaths propelled by the diaphragm muscle that sits under the lungs.


*To relax, breath should begin in the diaphragm laterally, expanding the ribs. Imagine breathing in an appealing color. Also, press in an inch or two in the acupressure point three finger widths below the navel and hold for one to three minutes. Tapping on acupressure point’s sends signals to the brain, as does thinking about a problem; for example to the amygdala and other parts of the emotional limbic center of the brain. Brain scans show these signals interact to clear the problem, similar to systematic desensitization used to treat anxiety since the 1950s.


*Crunch up your shoulders and face tightly and count to six. Hold your breath, then release your breath and tension while counting to six again. Drop your jaw as well as your shoulders. Relax with mini-breaks during the day. Do deep breathing, let your shoulders drop, say, “With every exhalation I release tension and with every inhalation I breathe in relaxation.”


*Inhale and rock up on your toes, bringing your palms up over the head, and then come down with both arms, exhaling vigorously. Release any anger or frustration on the exhalation as you swing your arms down.


*Standing up, twist side to side as you slap each hand on the opposite shoulder (or over kidneys) and inhale through the mouth and exhale through the mouth. It gets spinal fluid flowing.


Author Gay Hendricks says we can reverse the chemistry of the stress response with just three good breaths. He recommends breathing like a happy newborn baby whose spines move as they breathe.[xxvii] In a Sounds True CD, Hendricks recommends doing “lifestream breathing” and the “reset button.” Life stream breathing involves sitting on a chair towards the front with feet flat on the floor, hands resting on your thighs. Inhale as your relaxed stomach expands rolling forward on the sit-bones and moving forward while you bring your head up. Exhale and let your head drop down while your pelvis drops back making a “C” shape about every six seconds. Or try it on all four limbs and arching the small of the back (the cat and cow yoga poses) and inhaling with your chin up, then flattening the back, chin down, exhaling, not pausing between the breaths.

The centering “reset button” includes these steps: exhale all the way out, then pause perhaps 30 seconds or longer, and wait until you need a breath to allow the oxygen and carbon dioxide to get balanced. Return to regular breathing and then do another centering breath. Hendricks uses it whenever he feels off center. He says this balances the oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body and it’s an effective way to interrupt a negative reaction.

It’s useful to use lifestream breathing while doing a body scan, imagining you have X-ray vision and can look at your body from head to toe, paying attention to feelings and allowing them to clear. Hendricks found that anger is stored as tension in the back and neck and sadness as constriction in the throat and chest with a lump in the throat. Fear is stored in the belly like butterflies in the stomach. Try releasing these feelings with your exhalations. Jennifer, who critiqued a draft of this book, recommends F*ck Feelings by Michael Bennett and Sarah Bennett for coping techniques that work for her.



If your muscles are relaxed, you can’t be tense. Make a fist, then open it and allow any tension to flick out from your fingers. Shake out leftover tension by shaking out your hands and feet, stomping, or doing the twist with your hips. Tighten and relax each muscle starting from your feet up to your face, telling the muscle to be heavy, relaxed, comfortable, warm, smooth, at ease, or calm—called progressive relaxation. Try massage, acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology, and yoga as taught in a class, DVD, or on YouTube.[xxviii] The Chopra Center website offers many wellness resources, including six yoga poses you can do without a mat.[xxix] Have a funny temper tantrum by sitting, stomping your feet, slapping your thighs, and growling.


*Spend time walking outside in green spaces. Get sunlight or use full spectrum light bulbs by your desk.


*Roll your head with ear to one shoulder, down and around to the other shoulder.


*Do stretches as done in yoga such as: hamstring stretch, full-body stretch, low lunge, bridge pose, and locust pose, standing forward bend, downward facing dog, etc. Do yoga poses such as the child’s pose (like Islamic prayer position) and happy baby (on your back holding your feet up and rocking side to side). Then rub your feet together while rubbing your hands together while resting on your back. Photos illustrating the poses are available online.[xxx] Research verifies that yoga helps with depression as well as limberness and balance.[xxxi]



*Rub your hands over your ears, front to back, down the neck, and hang on your shoulders with your hands facing behind you, palms touching the body. This calms the triple warmer meridian associated with the flight or fight stress response. When it’s on too often, it weakens the immune system.


*Rub your feet, hands, and ears which all contain many reflexology points connected to various organs.[xxxii] The theory is reflex areas in the feet, hands and ears correspond to the glands, organs and parts of the body. When rubbing the feet, think of them side by side as representing the body, with the arches representing the spine. The toes are linked to the head, the organs descending down the feet. With over 7,000 nerve endings in each foot, it’s useful to give them attention. You can combine message with essential oils, as the feet absorb them very quickly. Do an Internet search to find reflexology charts for feet, hands, and ears.


*Massage your face, scalp and shoulders, tap (use a hair brush for your back), rub, stretch the skin, or gently pull the hair at the roots. Rub your gums through your cheeks. Circle your jaw.


*Rub your palms together and rest them over your eyes, visualizing black velvet cloth for two or three minutes to relax your eyes. Periodically look away from your computer scene and blink often.


Use Your Senses to Feel Peaceful

Visual: Imagine where you’d like to be in nature surrounded by soothing and nurturing colors. (“Nature deficit disorder” occurs when city-dwellers are deprived of green space, as discussed in The Nature Fix by Florence Williams. Taking a walk in nature improves performance on memory tasks.)


Auditory: Sing, hang a wind chime or put a small fountain by your study space. Talk to someone about how you’re feeling.


Olfactory: Burn incense or apply essential oils to alleviate stress: chamomile, fir, grapefruit, lavender, rose, verbena, sandalwood, geranium, etc. To boost mental energy, use peppermint, eucalyptus or rosemary. To relax, apply lavender or ylang ylang. They’re available along with flower essences and homeopathy at natural foods stores or on the Internet.


Kinesthetic: take a warm bath, pet a dog or cat, or squeeze a rubber ball. Think of your favorite stuffed animal when you were a child. Give yourself a head and shoulder rub. If you feel you’re going to say something you’ll regret, breathe deeply and squeeze your thumb and index finger together.


Taste: crunch on celery, carrots, nuts or other healthy foods.


Have Fun and Be Creative


Fun and laughter is good for us, so plan for enjoyable activities as part of your daily routine. Laughter lowers the stress hormone cortisol by 39%, according to a Loma Linda University study, and it lowers blood sugar in diabetics, boosts immunity, and protects heart health.[xxxiii] Laughter has a positive impact on blood vessels, similar to exercises, according to a 2005 study at the University of Maryland. Kids seem happier than adults, as studies show they laugh a lot more than adults. We laugh when illogical things are linked, as comedians often do in their performances. Women tend to laugh more than men and men are the best laugh-getters, according to Robert Provine in Laughter: A Scientific Investigation. For fun, SpeakOut respondents are very creative, liking arts, music, writing, dancing and drama. Sports are also very popular, along with hanging out with friends, and electronic games. Create opportunities to laugh by watching funny videos, reading amusing books and telling jokes. Check out joke books from the library and add to your humor scrapbook. Post illustrated positive reminders. Act like a playful kid: An anonymous Internet source suggested the activities listed below. Your inner child subpersonality will think of more activities if you ask and listen.


Kid Fun

* Give yourself a gold star for everything you accomplish today.

* Make a milk mustache.

* Have a staring contest with a cat.

* Read fairy tales.

* Have someone read you a story.

* Wear your favorite shirt with your favorite pants even if they don’t match.

* Find some pretty stones and save them.

* Make a sculpture with found objects.

* Walk barefoot in wet grass.

* Fuss a little and then take a nap.

* Have someone wash your hair and give you a back rub.

* Take a running jump over a big puddle.

* Giggle a lot for no real reason.

* Squish mud between your toes.

* Put an orange slice in your mouth, peel side out, and smile at people.


If you wear a watch or carry a mobile phone with an alarm, set it to beep every hour to remind you to take a deep belly breath and exhale tension through the mouth and stretch. You can’t be tense if you’re laughing, so look at your collection of cartoons and wonderful photographs printed from the Internet or your own photos. Praise yourself for noticing tension in a body part and imagine breathing green or blue light into it. Before you go to sleep, try progressive relaxation, moving your attention from feet to head. Think, “My feet are warm and heavy, fluid like melting butter. I thank my feet for their service as they receive relaxing healing energy,” and on up.



“Meditation and paranyam [conscious breathing] helps me to keep my calm,” reports Jahnvi, 16, m, India. In The Molecules of Emotion, Candace Pert, Ph.D., advocates meditation to counter stress that causes:


.           the largely autonomic processes that are regulated by peptide flow, such as breathing, immunity, digestion, and elimination, to collapse down to a few simple feedback loops and upset the normal healing response. Meditation, by allowing long-buried thoughts and feelings to surface, is a way of getting the peptides flowing again, returning the body, and the emotions, to health.


Meditation involves inner listening, quieting the mind by concentrating on one thing, such as breathing in and out, or a phrase, or a picture. T.S. Eliot’s poem “Burnt Norton” reminds us to be in the “still point of the turning world, there the dance is.” The Buddha talked about this peaceful state in terms of the middle path and non-attachment to the belief in permanence. Jesus advised to be in the world, but not of it. The Dalai Lama suggested allowing the mind in meditation to be like clear water; “stay with this unfabricated mind without allowing conceptions to be generated.” Muslim SpeakOut student Shehroz (17, m, Pakistan) realized, “It is interesting how meditation is a pretty important component in Islam and no one notices it. When we pray five times a day, it is like meditation or alone time for oneself. When we read the Holy Quran, it is like meditation. When we are in trouble, we often recite a small word from the Quran in Arabic or a small phrase many times like a thousand times without talking in the middle.”

Deepak Chopra, MD, author and founder of the Chopra Center, teaches that it’s important to set intentions for your highest good and pay attention to synchronicities and coincidences that show opportunities to reach higher goals.[xxxiv]


           Preparedness means being in the moment, relaxed, centered, in touch with your inner being, not being distracted. Enjoy what you do, one thing at a time. All you have is this moment of flow [rather than yesterday or tomorrow]. Follow signs and surprising coincidences. They are natural occurrences when you’re in touch with your true self that doesn’t mind unpredictability. Higher consciousness is involved in an opportunity you didn’t anticipate.


He coined a term, “syncro-destiny,” defined as the universe sending clues for our growth. An example of a five-element meditation is on the Chopra Center website, along with many other types of meditations.[xxxv]

It may take the body a while to get used to being quiet and still in the meditative process, but researchers found meditation lowers blood pressure, decreases heart and respiratory rates, increases blood flow and other signs of the relaxation response, plus it strengthens immune function, and provides pain relief. African-American teenage boys with high blood pressure were able to bring their blood pressure down over four months when they practiced Transcendental Meditation (a phrase or mantra is repeated about 20 minutes while sitting quietly). The teens reported that they were able to concentrate better, felt less anger and had improved relationships with others.[xxxvi] Prisoners who learned to do Vipassana Buddhist meditation in India and Alabama had fewer disciplinary problems.[xxxvii]



Set aside time every day to exercise and to meditate, pray or sit silently to tune into your inner guidance and quiet the monkey mind. If it’s hard for you to sit still, do a walking meditation. I made a CD and DVD with a meditation you can listen to on headphones sitting or walking called “Meditate with Dr. Gayle Kimball.” Filmmaker David Lynch advocates going within in meditation as a way to eliminate school violence. He recommends,


In today’s world of fear and uncertainty, every child should have one class period a day to dive within himself and experience the field of silence—bliss—the enormous reservoir of energy and intelligence that is deep within all of us. This is the way to save the coming generation. I have been “diving within” through the Transcendental Meditation technique for over 30 years. It has changed my life, my world.[xxxviii]


Visualizations to Reduce Stress

I teach and write about what I call “Energy Tools” or “Mind Power” to harness the power of the mind through simple visualizations.[xxxix] Athletes who imagine a perfect performance have better outcomes. Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD, commented that the greatest medical advances of the next decade will involve manipulating the body’s energy flow, as acupuncturists seem to do. He said, “I’ve always been frustrated that we’ve not been able to measure energy, but I’m not willing to write off what a billion people think is possible, just because we can’t measure it in the West.”

Scientists who study our thoughts found the secret of the power of thought is intentions, when you whole-heartedly decide to do something. Thoughts are so powerful the body responds to them, even to something that’s not real. Have you seen a frightening movie and jumped or your heart started beating faster? A movie is just colored light on a flat screen but your feelings about it make your body change. Imagine eating your favorite food or a lemon and your mouth may water.


*Imagine a secret garden of your own where you can plant flowers and trees, create ponds and waterfalls, and watch animals move around your garden. Imagine it changing with the seasons as the leaves change color, plants grow, animals have babies and so on, as you visit month after month. When you want an answer to a question, go to your garden, sit on your favorite bench under your special tree, and ask the wisest creature in your garden to sit by you on the bench with an answer to your question. See a scroll with the answer in the animal’s beak, paw, or mouth, as a way to access your inner wisdom.


*Think about your day as a song, and set the tempo and mood you want as you get ready in the morning



A grounding pipe is an imaginary line of energy from you into the earth that makes you feel secure and strong, and allows for release and for cleansing your space.[xl] The more widely used term is grounding cord, but it’s actually more like a pipe, in that it’s hollow to release excesses and disturbing thoughts. It also creates an anchor to make you feel safe and connected to mother earth as you use your energy tools to achieve your goal.

Imagine you have a powerful flashlight to shine down from the bottom of your spine all the way to the center of the planet. We’re playing with symbols or pictures as a way to move energy and create positive thinking, in this case a technique to create a line of connection from you to the earth. Put something you like down in the center to attract your attention there.


More Energy

Whenever you release old habits down your grounding cord, you need to then fill up with fresh golden energy by visualizing a sun, or else the same kind of gunk could flow back in. Imagine a big gold sun about five feet above your head. Fill it with clear gold energy and your goals, like feeling energetic. Then unzip the gold sun, or pour the healing energy out like rain. Have the gold light drain onto the top of your head and into your brain, down your neck and shoulders and arms, down your spine into your torso and your pelvis, down your thighs, into your knees and out your feet. Fill all the trillions of your cells with the charged light, in a form of positive self-hypnosis.

Imagine filling your sun with different colors and textures, such as honey, sparkles, or bubbles. See if you notice subtle changes. Do you notice any places where the light can’t flow? How does the light feel in different parts of your body? Use it as a diagnostic tool to scan your body, asking the energy to light up any organ, gland, or body part that needs your attention. If something lights up, conduct what seems like an imaginary conversation with it, because it can actually be informative as an access to the unconscious mind.


Get Centered and Calm

Imagine a room in the middle of your head with only you in it. Decorate it and create windows with great views. Put a throne in the middle of the room, sit in it, and be the ruler of your life. This is a way to feel like the boss of your own body and how you feel. It keeps you in your body rather than “spacing out” and aligns with your clear inner vision.


Be Aware of Your Energy Bubble to Feel Safe

Imagine a beautiful bubble around you, filling with the aura borealis to energize, adjust, clear your body and mind. Surround it with flowers to capture negative energy before it gets to you. Blow them up with firecrackers when they get wilted and create new ones. Especially use this visualize when you’re around groups of people to define your own space.


Just because these visualizations are imaginary doesn’t mean they don’t have a calming effect. Dean Radin, Ph.D., and other scientists do laboratory experiments that show the power of intention, of thought, to do something like change the rate at which yeast release oxygen, discussed in Chapter 5.

HeartMath’s Freeze Frame to Reduce Stress

  1. Freeze frame the stressful feeling, as you would put a video on pause.
  2. Shift your focus to your heart by imagining you’re breathing deeply through it, for at least 10 seconds. Keep your awareness here rather than on the problem.
  3. Remember a positive time, as when you felt deep love, caring, forgiveness or appreciation, and experience that feeling. Don’t visualize, as this takes you to your head, just sense and feel. This fond memory causes the heart rate to move to a coherent rhythm.
  4. Using your intuition and common sense, ask your heart what would be a more effective response to the situation that would reduce stress? Listen to the answer and be patient as it may not be immediate.[xli]


A HeartMath variation is Go to Neutral when you feel upset: Say “timeout” to yourself. Shift your focus to your heart and imagine your breath coming in your heart for around five seconds and going out through your solar plexus at the bottom and middle of your rib cage for about five seconds. Continue this focus until you relax. A third variation taught to HeartMath students is called Attitude Breathing to change an unwanted attitude. Do the same breathing in through the heart and out through the solar plexus. Concentrate on a positive feeling that you’ve identified before. Lock in the good feeling with your intention.[xlii]

Try the Neuro Linguistic Programming “Swish Pattern” to change the senses around the problem to desensitize it. 1) Think of the problem and an image to represent it. What do you see or hear in your mind’s eye? 2) Distract yourself by saying your phone number backwards. 3) Create a resourceful positive image. 4) Put the positive image in a tiny sparkling dot of light and enlarge it. Go back and forth from the positive image in an enlarging dot to a neutral blank screen until you don’t feel unpleasant feelings. Let the positive light enlarge and multiply and encircle you. Test it by trying to get the original problematic image back. Try an affirmation such as “My safe place is inside me.” Distract your mind with music, books on tape, or language tapes.

Although uncomfortable and scary, in fact anxiety doesn’t cause a physical problem like a heart attack. Analyze the triggers and figure out what they mean to you. One solution is to gradually desensitize the fear by associating it with something safe. For example, for someone who is afraid to drive, she could just sit in the car with a good book, fun music, and a comforting cup of herbal tea for five minutes, then ten minutes the next time, until she feels comfortable turning on the engine. You also can try distracting yourself by listening to music. Create a mental picture of a safe beautiful place and call it to mind when you start to get anxious. For example, I call forth a joyous experience when I was snorkeling in Hawaii surrounded by a large school of small silvery fish and felt peaceful in their midst and then had the same experience in Mexico.

Instead of trying to repress the obsessive anxious thoughts, which creates more anxiety, allow yourself to be obsessive about counting and recording them, recording how many come up during the day, acknowledging them and then imagining them flying off like birds. Record the triggers so you can prevent them when you see a pattern. Your job is to take action every day to deflate the anxiety, like letting air out of a too-full tire. Exercise helps by stimulating feel good endorphins and reducing stress hormones.[xliii] “There is no pill that comes close to what exercise can do” for wellness and longevity, according to Claude Bouchard, director of the human genomics laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. Taking anxiety-reducing herbs or homeopathy formulas can help some people.[xliv] If you’re a visually creative person, create an ongoing story about a tricky fear monster and a superhero who outsmarts and vanquishes the fear monster. Read about something funny instead of worrying.[xlv] Look at funny videos and books because laughing is an antidote for tension. Listen to music that balances left and right brain hemisphere like Hemisync (


Working through any difficult emotion is easier if you include frequent nurturing activities, exercise to stimulate your endorphins, and sometimes focus on something else. When I was certified to scuba dive in Belize, I was anxious sitting 60 feet under the water doing the safety exercises like taking off my mask and exchanging oxygen with a buddy, so I put my attention and gaze on my teacher and the sea creatures, rather than on my fear.


Calming Techniques

*Take a deep breath with your tongue on the roof of the mouth. Exhale with your tongue on the floor of your mouth. This connects the Governing and Central meridians and is really calming. Repeat while deep breathing, “I am relaxed, calm and centered.”

*Visualize releasing some of the anxiety into your grounding pipe every day.

*When you start to worry about something or someone you care about, imagine being in the throne in an imaginary room in the middle of your head, the centering visualization. This focus keeps you from spacing out and reacting emotionally to a situation. It’s described on my meditation CD.

*Set positive energy by imagining filling in a gold sun with what you want to feel and it slowly pours its contents down into your head all the way to your feet.


*Tense and relax: grab your chair from underneath, pull up and push down with your feet flat on the ground, then relax and repeat.

*Visualize a peaceful place like a mountain meadow with a clear blue lake.


*Be aware of where you feel the anxiety in your body on a thermostat, turn it down, and send warm green light to that area. If you feel anxious during a test, silently shout “Stop,” and repeat, “I can focus on what I’ve learned.”


*Search out an archetype that feels protective, like downloading a picture of Angel Michael or the goddess Lakshmi. Post it in your room.


*When you start to obsess over what could go wrong, try taking it to its extreme, like “I could end up in a low-status university.” When you face the realistic worse that could happen, it may not be so bad, as when one door closes, another opens. The point is not to worry about worrying.


*Think about being in a sturdy boat and staying focused on letting the current carry you forward. Being lucky means that you flow with the Tao (an ancient Chinese Taoist term about the way or path of the natural order of the universe) and stay centered so you can listen to your higher guidance. See which of these other visualizations are calming for you:


*Imagine you’re a turtle, carrying your safe shell with you when you leave home.


*Visualize a bubble around your body made of space launch strong plastic shielding. You can see out but other people’s energy can’t permeate.


*Shift your focus from your internal anxiety to looking at people you encounter externally as works of art, with various colors and sizes and shapes.


Working through any difficult emotion is easier if you include frequent nurturing activities, exercise to stimulate your endorphins, and sometimes focus on something else. When I was certified to scuba dive in Belize, I was anxious sitting 60 feet under the water doing the safety exercises like taking off my mask and exchanging oxygen with a buddy, so I put my attention and gaze on my teacher and the sea creatures, rather than on my fear.

Another way to distance yourself from the fear was used by Russell Crowe’s character in the film The Beautiful Mind, based on the true story of math genius John Nash. In the film, Crowe’s character dealt with his demons by saying to himself, “Well, that’s just my schizophrenia, so I’m going to ignore it.” A therapist can help figure out the origin of your anxiety that gets projected on scary images and how to resolve it.



[i] “Scientists Discover Key to Manipulating Fat,” Science News, July 2, 2007.

[ii] Stephanie Lee, “Dr. Nadine Burke Harris Gets to Heart of Children’s Stress,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 16, 2015.

[iii] Joel Brinkley, “Pakistanis Give Aid to Their Enemies,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 25, 2009, p. E8.



[vi] “Stress in America Findings,” American Psychological Association, November 9, 2010.

Click to access national-report.pdf

[vii] Ilene Lelchuk, “Pressure-cooker Kids,” San Francisco Chronicle,

January 11, 2007

[viii] Janice Gibson-Cline, ed. Youth and Coping in Twelve Nations. Routledge, 2000, p. 51.

[ix] Elissa Moses. New World Teen Study. John Wiley & Sons, 2000.

34,000 teens from 44 countries. (The respondents were mainly middle-class high school students in urban and suburban areas.)

[x] James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis, “The Dynamic Spread of Happiness in a Large Social Network,” NIH Public Access, December 2008






[xvi] Try massage, acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology, and yoga as taught in a class, DVD, or on YouTube.[xvi]

[xvii] “Don’t Let Stress Make You a Mess” Motivation & Success

Planning Your Study Time

Preventing Test Anxiety

Tulane University also provides resilience resources.

[xviii] Elle Kaplan, “How to Transform Yours Stress Into Insane Productivity, According to Harvard Psychologists,”, October 29, 2016.

View at

[xix] Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith. Journeys from Childhood to Midlife: Risk, Resilience, and Recovery. Cornell University, 2001.

[xx] Sheryl Sandberg, “How to Build Resilient Kids,” New York Times, April 24, 2017.

with Adam Grant. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. Knopf, 2017.

[xxi] Beth Howard, “The Secrets of Resilient People,” AARP Magazine, November 2009, pp. 32-35.


A fee is charged for the assessment called EQ-i 2.0 for Higher Education, with a book: Korrel Kannoy. The Student EQ Edge. Jossey-Bass, 2013. (EQ refers to Emotional Intelligence.) Other books to develop resilience and aid learning are Angela Duckworth. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perserverance. Scribner, 2016.

Peter Brown and Henry Roediger. Making it Stick. Belknap Press, 2014.

Carol Dweck. Mindset. Ballantine Books, 2007.

Malcolm Gladwell. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. Back Bay Books, 2015.

Malcolm Gladwell. Outliers: The Story of Success. Back Bay Books, 2011.

Daniel Pink. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Riverhead Books, 2011.

Cornelia Wills. Mama Said:  A Word to the Wise is Sufficient.  Xulon Press, 2013.


[xxiv] “Open Forum, Youth Voices,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 26, 2005


[xxvi] “How Does Music Effect You?”




[xxxi] A study from Boston University School of Medicine showed that practicing yoga increased levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric) in the brain. Low levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter, are associated with depression and anxiety disorders. Investigators followed two randomized groups of healthy volunteers for 12 weeks. Researchers found increased GABA levels and decreased anxiety among the participants in the yoga group, who also reported a significantly greater decrease in anxiety and more improved mood over the course of the study than did the volunteers in the walking group. The study was published by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.



[xxxiv] Notes on Chopra Center Webcase, “Sacred Momentum: The Divine Method for Creating Your Best Year Yet,” January 13, 2016.

[xxxv] See more at:




[xxxix] Visualizations to harness the power of the mind through intention are explained in my book Essential Energy Tools and illustrated in three videotapes listed in the bookstore The book describes how to ground, center, energize, achieve goals, and develop intuitive and healing abilities. My CD and DVD Kids’ Mind Power is available for children and Meditate with Dr. Gayle Kimball for adults.





[xliv] Joette Calabrese’s


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