What is Stress Management?

Stress management is defined as techniques or methods employed in the treatment or management of stress.

Stress is the body’s normal response to the psychological or physical demands of life. It is a natural part of life and occurs as a reaction to specific triggers that can put you on edge or cause you to worry. Stress can fluctuate at home or at work, while challenging situations and other life transitions can also trigger it. Occasional stressors are harmless to our body health. In fact, stressors can be used to motivate or push us to work towards achieving important goals or to come out of a tough situation. However, when the stressors become chronic, they may cause significant psychological strain and long-term health issues.

Psychologists or mental health professionals can often assist individuals to reduce and manage their stress through a variety of stress management techniques. They can also assist individuals to work through other mental health problems that may have developed while dealing with high levels of stress over time.

Causes of Stress

Some of the common life stressors or events that can trigger stress in individuals include:

  • Relationship issues
  • Family issues
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Financial issues
  • Death of a loved one
  • Marriage-related issues
  • Divorce or break-ups
  • Losing a job or job-related concerns
  • Traumatic events, such as domestic violence or sexual assault/abuse
  • Inability to adapt to changes in life
  • Uncertainty or insecurity about the future

Symptoms of Stress

Stress can have emotional, mental, and physical symptoms.

Emotional symptoms of stress include:

  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Apathy
  • Anger
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed

Mental symptoms of stress include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Addictions and/or compulsions
  • Self-harm/suicidal ideation
  • Food and eating issues

Physical symptoms of stress include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Sleeplessness
  • Acne
  • Digestive issues
  • Stomach aches
  • Body pain

Effects of Stress on Mental and Physical health

Stress can contribute to several physical and mental health issues, including:

  • Insomnia or sleeplessness
  • Fluctuations in mood or mental health
  • Addiction to drugs or alcohol
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Less productivity at work
  • Migraine headaches
  • Depression
  • Anger issues
  • Intimacy problems
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Appetite issues
  • Stroke and heart attack

Tips to Manage Stress

Some of the steps that may assist you to keep stress at bay include:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Engaging in recreational activities, such as games
  • Taking regular breaks from work or occasional vacations
  • Consuming less caffeine or alcohol
  • Doing breathing exercises
  • Keeping a positive attitude
  • Learning to manage time
  • Making time for hobbies and interests, such as gardening
  • Surrounding yourself with positive and supportive friends and family members
  • Not taking too many responsibilities at home or at work
  • Keeping realistic goals to achieve at school/college or work

Therapy for Stress Management

Therapists and counselors utilize many types of therapy to help individuals cope with stress in healthy ways. Some common types of therapy include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is one of the most effective methods to teach patients how to manage stress. In CBT, your therapist will help you learn to recognize negative thought patterns that can increase stress and contribute to depression and anxiety. In working with a CBT therapist, you can identify and change maladaptive thinking patterns, recognize your triggers, create and implement new, assistive behaviors, improve your emotions, and develop specific techniques to deal with issues.
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT is a method of therapy that helps individuals move past challenges such as stress and create their own type of quality life. With ACT, you can learn to stop struggling against stress, alter your response to it, and live in a way that decreases it. ACT therapy changes how individuals react to stress and increases a general feeling of well-being.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT): MBCT combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness strategies to help people cope with stress and manage general life challenges more positively. It emphasizes mindfulness, paying attention to the present moment, and living fully in the present rather than being stuck in stress-perpetuating emotions and thoughts.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is a comprehensive cognitive-behavioral treatment. It aims to treat individuals who see little or no improvement with other models of therapy. DBT focuses on problem-solving and acceptance-based strategies. The term dialectical refers to processes that bring together opposite concepts such as change and acceptance.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy can be an option if you are going through an extremely stressful event like divorce, child loss, natural disaster, and more. It is a type of psychotherapy in which one or more therapists work with several individuals with similar issues at the same time. The therapy helps the affected individual to interact with different people of similar concerns and find support, comfort, and solutions through discussion under their therapist’s guidance.

Stress can also occur from other mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or addictions. Talk to your therapist about any personal stressors and symptoms. A therapist can help you understand your overall mental health and recommend the best treatment plan for your situation.