Stress-Fighting Secrets From Top-Notch Therapists

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They are award-winning psychologists, sought-after psychotherapists and inspirational speakers. They have written books and given speeches at Google or TED Talks.

But when they sit down with patients, they’re all fighting a common enemy: stress.

Here are some of their tried-and-true tips to curb stress:

  • Advice for married people: stress loosens its grip when you get vulnerable

Winifred Reilly, marriage and family therapist and author of “It Takes One to Tango: How I Rescued My Marriage,” is a big proponent of the “letting your guard down” approach as a way to cope with stress. “I’ve learned over the years that it’s OK for me to tear up or even cry with my clients when they’re suffering, rather than sit there like a block of stone, which would likely give me a lot of bodily tension and maybe a headache,” she says.

  • A self-care routine it’s not just for millennials

Mental health professionals are not immune to stress. They’re just better at prioritizing self-care to ensure they’re equipped to handle whatever life throws at them. Family time and hobbies rank high on their self-care routine. Maryellen Mullin, founder of San Francisco Family Therapy, for instance, rides a horse named Beau twice a week. “Beau keeps me sane. He’s a Morgan Thoroughbred, easy to please with treats and a pat—what a reward for me,” she says.

  • Stressed at work? Let your inner kid help

Humor and joy, according to Mullin, are the most effective weapons against stress. A work deadline won’t cause you as much anxiety if you’re wearing a wacky piece of clothing that puts you in a playful mood.

  • Anxiety can enhance your performance

Ian Robertson’s book, “The Stress Test: How Pressure Can Make You Stronger and Sharper,” explains how we can all benefit from experiencing moderate amounts of stress. The trick is to tell yourself you’re excited when you are anxious, says Robertson a neuroscientist and clinical psychologist in Dublin, Ireland. Your brain won’t know the difference because the symptoms of stress and excitement are similar: pumping heart, sweating skin et cetera.

  • A little cursing does wonders for your sanity

In moments of fear and anger, the best thing you can do for your sanity is to swear like a sailor. This trick comes from Benjamin K. Bergen, professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego and author of “What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves.” Bergen says it does wonders for your mood when you experience strong emotions, like frustration, stress, or elation. It can make you feel “relaxed, funny, or at home.”

  • Stop forcing yourself to be happy

Forcing yourself to “think happy thoughts”—and failing—can leave you feeling worse. How to break this vicious cycle? Enter Joseph Cardillo, a holistic psychology expert. In his book, “Body Intelligence: Harness Your Body’s Energies for Your Best Life,” Cardillo explains how to use your body’s energy to get yourself in good spirits. For example, music can instantly shift your mood, no happy thoughts required, says Cardillo. Another little-known stress-busting trick? Massaging energy points at the bottom center of each foot.

. . .

A longer version of this article appeared in the issue no. 03 of the “Simplify Magazine,” a quarterly, digital publication that addresses some of the most pressing needs of the modern family.

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