Stanford expert talks about reducing stress, enhancing resilience and practicing PEACE

Tia Rich
Tia Rich (Photo Credit: Sallie Rich)

As manager for resilience, stress management and contemplation programs for the Health Improvement Program (HIP)  and BeWell, TIA RICH, designs, teaches and directs programs that help Stanford community members thrive. BeWell spoke with Rich to learn about ways to reduce stress and enhance resilience. Here’s an excerpt of that Q&A.

How can I thrive in a fast-paced world in which I have multiple roles and responsibilities?

Practical self-care tools and resilience-building behaviors that rest the mind, refresh the body and restore the spirit help us thrive. HIP/BeWell’s acronym for fundamental stress management behaviors is PEACE: Pause, Exhale, Attend, Connect and Express. These actions easily fit into the flow of daily life to increase resilience and reduce the frequency, intensity and duration of distress — thus preventing stress-related illnesses and burnout.

From November 4 -12, the campus-wide, multidisciplinary Contemplation by Design (CBD) Week will offer the opportunity to experience the five PEACE behaviors and the variety of contemplative practices they reflect. (CBD Week events are free, but registration is required.) All CBD collaborators offer classes that provide knowledge and skills in PEACE behaviors.

Pause: Settle the dynamic, active mind to renew the mind-body-spirit connection.

Exhale: Breathe deeply in stressful situations to restore balance in the nervous system and facilitate the ability to respond skillfully to stressors rather than react or repress.

Attend: Be aware of the present moment experience by mindfully attending to sensations from each of the senses.

Connect: Compassionately connect to what is happening now  intrapersonally, interpersonally and as a community member — and discern how to relate in ways that sustain health and happiness for oneself and others.

Express: Express oneself in authentic, creative and compassionate ways  – including design, art, scholarship, friendship and community service and volunteering.

Why do I want to do contemplative practices?

PEACE practices foster distress tolerance, emotional intelligence and compassionate action. Contemplation helps us to be more understanding of oneself and others, and thus enhances our ability to function effectively in the complex, globalized world.

Contemplative practices also cultivate the capacity to sustain: equanimity, mindfulness, positive emotions, discernment, wisdom, pro-social behavior and creative expression. In the heat of challenging demands, this capacity facilitates the ability to be calm, compassionate and competent. For example, when speaking to a person who is behaving in a distressing way, if the speaker sustains equanimity, mindfulness and positive emotions, he/she can step toward the stressful situation and engage fully with the difficult emotions and confused behavior of the other person, providing them empathy, compassion, and wise guidance. This type of interaction renders bidirectional sustenance for both people. For example: both an employer and employee feel enlivened when insight emerges from a “mistake”; both doctor and patient feel relief in response to the words, “I have successfully treated this condition before”; both lawyer and client feel peace of mind in response to the verdict of “not guilty.”

PEACE practices develop the resilience that supports full engagement with all the challenges life brings. Full engagement sustains connections fundamental to joy, happiness, health and well-being.

Read the full article on the BeWell website.