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  • Writer's pictureChristina Rhyser

How to EXHALE (and Other Ways to Manage Stress)

two fluffy dandelions reminding us to breathe

Dear Christy,

How do I juggle my toddler's relentless demands for attention and my infant's incessant cries for comfort at the same time? My attempts to soothe one child only seems to agitate the other, creating this never-ending cycle of whining and crying. It's so stressful! I try to maintain my composure, but it's like I can feel this frustration bubbling inside of me like a pressure cooker about to explode. I don't want to yell at my kids but sometimes I don't know what else to do. How can I deal with moments like these when I feel so out of control?"

Thanks for any advice!

Sarah (Mom of two)


Dear Sarah,

First of all, let me say that you are most definitely not alone in this. Parents all over the world struggle with similar situations, often leaving them feeling drained and helpless. The good news is, there are some great stress management tools available that can help you to bring your body back to a state of calm when faced with a stressful situation. Don't get me wrong - managing stress is not a one-time solution that makes parenting challenges go away. But when we can manage these difficult moments with grace and honour for ourselves and others, we can recover more quickly and enjoy more peaceful days.

Here is a short article about stress management that I think might help. Which ideas could you choose to learn and practice this week?

Let me know how it goes!




Stress is how our bodies, minds, hearts and souls naturally react to any challenge or pressure (stressor). Stress management is how we choose to EXHALE or otherwise respond to that stress with grace and honour in our daily lives. 

Activating the parasympathetic nervous system, often referred to as the "rest and digest" system, can help counteract the body's stress response and induce feelings of calm and relaxation. Here are several ways to activate the parasympathetic nervous system in any stressful moment:

01. Deep Breathing

Practice deep, diaphragmatic breathing by inhaling deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to expand, and exhaling slowly through your mouth. This can help stimulate the vagus nerve and activate the parasympathetic nervous system.

02. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Tense and release different muscle groups in your body, starting from your toes and working your way up to your head. This technique helps release physical tension and signals to your body that it's safe to relax.

03. Mindful Awareness

Bring your attention to the present moment by focusing on your senses. Notice the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and sensations around you without judgment. This can help ground you in the present and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. You may also wish to close your eyes and visualize yourself in a peaceful, calming environment, such as a serene beach or lush forest.

04. EFT

Tapping, often referred to as Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), is a therapeutic approach that involves gently tapping on specific meridian points on the body while focusing on a particular issue or emotion, commonly used to alleviate stress, anxiety, and other emotional distress.

05. Gentle Movement

Engage in gentle movement practices such as yoga, tai chi, or qigong, which promote relaxation and stress reduction. These practices can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system while also increasing flexibility and balance.

06. Warmth and Comfort

Surround yourself with warmth and comfort by wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket, taking a warm bath or shower, or sipping on a hot cup of tea. These comforting sensations can help soothe your nervous system and induce relaxation.

07. Humming or Chanting

Humming or chanting can stimulate the vagus nerve and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Experiment with different sounds and pitches, and notice how they affect your mood and sense of calm.

08. Laughing or Smiling

Laughter and smiling trigger the release of feel-good hormones such as endorphins, which can help counteract stress and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Humour may not come naturally in a stressful moment, but even forcing a fake smile or laugh can be contagious.

09. Affectionate Touch

Hug a loved one, cuddle with a pet, or give yourself a gentle self-massage. Physical touch releases oxytocin, a hormone that promotes feelings of bonding and relaxation, and can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system.

10. Listening to Soothing Music

Listen to calming music or nature sounds that resonate with you. Pay attention to the rhythm and melody, and allow yourself to become fully immersed in the auditory experience. Music has a powerful effect on mood and can help induce relaxation.


Remember that everyone's body responds differently, so it's important to experiment with these techniques and find what works best for you. Incorporating these practices into your daily routine can help you activate the parasympathetic nervous system and cultivate a greater sense of calm and well-being, even in the midst of stress.


Need some help to manage stress?

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