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Stress and Divorce, Part 2

Rachel Alexander Aug. 7, 2013

When acutely stressed, we first want to turn to our bodies, which provide thepathway into the part of our brain that needs to be calmed down. Here are three things that can help:

  • Breath

  • Smell

  • Movement


When we are anxious, we tend to breathe shallowly or hold our breath. By addressing this one thing, we can calm our bodies.

There are many viable breathing techniques. One simple, effective one is called alternate nostril breathing. Covering one nostril, inhale deeply for 4 counts; hold for a count of 4 and then exhale through the other nostril. Now inhale deeply for 4 counts through the nostril that you just exhaled from, hold for 4 counts and then exhale through the alternate nostril.

Repeating this several times takes less than a minute, but can have an enormously calming effect.

The Olfactory System

Smell is a powerful and effective sense. Our capacity to smell and respond to scent persists even when we can’t “think” ourselves calm. We can, however, reach ourselves through our nose. The olfactory sense is so strong, a scent can immediately transport you to another place or time. We can use a scent that is calming to help ourselves recenter.

Aromatherapy is an entire science devoted to scents. Aromatherapists are experts at blending scents to address various issues. It can be very interesting and exciting to investigate this as an avenue of self-care.

Examples of useful fragrances:

  • Calming scents include lavender, valerian and ylang-ylang.

  • For clarity, focus and productivity, the scent of cedar wood may be used.

  • Citrus scents such as lemon, nectarine, and tangerine tend to be uplifting for lethargy or sadness.

Essential oils are available at many health and whole food stores.


Movement is the third way we can help ourselves calm down. Using movement reroutes your energy and reengages your whole system, bringing it back “online.”

Have you ever noticed how children naturally play in figure eights? Movements that cross the centerline of the body can rebalance us emotionally.
Crossing the centerline helps us calm down because we are balancing and realigning our energy, which gets lopsided when we are stressed. You can rebalance in a number of ways, such as tapping or walking, but when we cross that middle line, we are engaging both the left and the right parts of the body; the left and right parts of the brain. That is what really helps us rebalance and calm down.

Lisa Byrne recommends “touching the calm switch” multiple times over the course of the day, to help reprogram yourself. The more routinized we become at using these techniques when not acutely stressed, the more accessible they will be during times of crisis. We can start integrating these things into the fabric of our day so that we introduce calm into our lives, in the same way that we’ve inadvertently introduced stress.

*Lisa Byrne earned a degree in biochemistry from Cal Poly State University and a Master’s in Public Health from Boston University. She is also a certified holistic health counselor for the Institute for Integrative Nutrition at Columbia University. Well Grounded Life website