Inquiry Based Stress Reduction

Inquiry Based Stress Reduction is a simple method (four questions and the turnarounds) of identifying and questioning thoughts that cause stress, fear, anger and violence.  In any stressful situation - personally or historically - you can identify the thoughts being believed, and then question them in order to discover new options and perspectives.

For example, imagine a student is looking at the board, where the teacher has written a practice equation.  She thinks, “The math problem is impossible.”


She can question that thought.  Here's how it works:



*For two research articles on IBSR see below. For further research articles, contact us.


Naomi E, Inbal M, Shahar Lev-ari. Inquiry Based Well- Being: A Novel Third Wave Approach For Enhancing Well-Being and Quality of Life - Mini Review . J Complement Med Alt Healthcare. 2018; 5(1): 555651. DOI:  10.19080/JCMAH.2018.05.555651. Web. 13 Sep. 2021

van Rhijn, MarieOdiel, Inbal Mitnik, & Shahar Lev-ari. "Inquiry-Based Stress Reduction: Another approach for questioning stressful thoughts and improving psychological well-being." Medical    

Research Archives [Online], 2.1 (2015): n. pag. Web. 13 Sep. 2021


Four Questions

Question 1:


Is it true?


Is it true, “The math problem is impossible?”

Consider the question and wait for an honest yes or no.


If your answer is a yes, move to question two. If it’s no, let that sink in and move to question three.

I consider this question...  I'm looking at the equation on the board..."The math problem is impossible, is that true?"  I see that the teacher is moving quickly.  I don't understand...


Can I absolutely know, 100%, that,

“The math problem is impossible?”

If your answer to question one is yes, ask yourself: “Can I absolutely know that it’s true?”


Check it out again.  Sit with the question as you reflect on that situation...

I'm looking at the equation on the board... 

  I see I didn't raise my hand to ask for help.  I also didn't try.  I can't know for sure that it's impossible.


Question 2:

Can I absolutely know it's true?


Question 3:

How do I react, what happens, when I believe this thought?


How do I react when I believe,

"The math problem is impossible?"

In that moment, how did you react, what happened, Notice:


  • What emotions did you feel?  What were the sensations in your body?

  • How did you treat the other person? Yourself?

  • What do you do when you believe that thought?


I feel deflated, anxious, bored and defeated. I feel tension in my body.  I hold my breath and roll my eyes.  I want to give up without even trying. I treat my teacher like he won't help me and is asking too much.  I treat myself like I can't do the work. I check out and start to chat with a friend. 

Who would I be, in the same situation,

without the thought,

"The math problem is impossible?"


Return to the situation.  Ask yourself, in the exact same situation, looking at the equation on the board, who or what you would be without the thought?

If I look at my situation without believing "The math problem is impossible," I'd notice this looks hard, but I’d stay attentive. I’d see that my teacher is willing to help.  I’d really look at the equation and see that I know how to do one piece of it, maybe more. I’d be patient with myself, stay open-minded, and work through my frustration and boredom.

Question 4:

Who would I be without that thought?


The Turnarounds




The turnarounds can show us a new perspective, or allow us to see something we may have missed in the stress of the moment.  The three main turnarounds are: to the self; to the other; and to the opposite.

Try them on as if you're trying on a pair of shoes.  You don't have to keep them.  It's an exploration. This is not about blaming yourself or feeling guilty. It’s about discovering alternatives that can bring you peace.

*Some turnarounds may not make any sense to you. Don’t force these.

The math problem is impossible

turns around to

The math problem is possible 


What are genuine examples of how

The math problem is possible?  

  • I know how to do some parts of the equation, so I already know how to do part of it

  • I’d remember that when I didn’t understand math, I eventually figured it out 

  • It’s ok to not know how to do this yet, that’s why I’m in school, I’m learning how to do this




The Opposite

 Turnaround to

The Other


The math problem is impossible

turns around to

I’m impossible (to my teacher)  


What are genuine examples of how

I’m impossible (to my teacher)?

  • When I don’t try or ask for help, my teacher can’t teach me

  • When I check out and start to talk with my friend, I disrupt class and my friend’s work.

  • If I don’t do my my work and I could get bad grades in this class

The math problem is impossible

turns around to

I’m impossible (to myself)  


What are genuine examples of how

I’m impossible (to myself)?

  • I give up without trying

  • I don’t believe in my ability to learn something difficult

  • I don’t ask for help, I just assume it’s impossible if I don’t quickly understand it

 Turnaround to

The Self

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