Zip, Zap or Zen Your Stressor

by Kjell Tore Hovik, Psyd, Phd

As a former athlete and in my current psychological practice, beating back stressors and converting negative stress to positive stress has been a preoccupation. The key to dealing with stress is taking a break from it. Short term, we can have different strategies: some prefer to empty their mind, some turn the stressor from a negative to a positive force, while others need to fill their mind with a diversion.

Here are some ideas that I’ve used to instantly zip, zap or zen a stressor anywhere anytime:

  • Get on Your Back for Belly-Breathing (this helps you calm down, relax, and focus);
  • Put Down the Phone (your hypothalamus will thank you);
  • Find a Nature Sounds Playlist (rain forest sounds are therapeutic, but silence is also encouraged);
  • Connect (you’re not alone in this, and a good conversation can trigger happy hormones);
  • Do a Five-Minute Clean (if everything is out of control, you can still control your environment);
  • Engage Your Brain (Make your way through that French cookbook? Listen to The Odyssey on Spotify? Learn how to make collages? Jiggle your grey matter.)

Additional ideas:

  • Stand on one foot with eyes closed and count how long you can stay balanced (do it a few more times later in the day and see if you can improve your count – Yay if you can, laugh if you can’t);
  • Start at 100 and count down by fives until you get down to 0 (if that’s too easy, try counting down by sevens);
  • Sit comfortably and imagine your favorite place on earth (if it’s a beach scene, imagine laying on the warm sand, hearing the waves lap gently on the shore, the smell of seaweed, the taste of salty seawater, the warm and soothing every muscle in your body – can you feel it?)
  • Smile, chuckle, then burst out in a major belly laugh (Why did the cow wear a bell? Because its horns don’t work. Or make a crazy face in the mirror. Some people need something silly to think about, others can burst out in laughter for nothing.)


The second in a line of health care books published in partnership with Dr. Daniel Amen and the Amen Clinics, When Crisis Strikes offers a proprietary 5-step program for tackling life crises and coping with chronic stress.

Stress is an unfortunate fact of modern life, and when those stressors are catastrophic–divorce, illness, caregiving, loss–a brain under stress becomes a brain in crisis. In this invaluable guide, award-winning psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Love and neuropsychologist Dr. Kjell Hovik explore how to heal the damage that prolonged stress can do to your brain and your health. In When Crisis Strikes you’ll learn how to prevent these side effects from hijacking your daily life.