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Stress Management

    stress management

    Stress management popularly alludes to the large number of strategies devised to manage stress. Their purpose is to ensure psychological and physiological well-being for improving everyday functioning. These strategies include qualitative assessments, psychotherapies, coping techniques etc.

    Subtopics

    What Is Stress Management?

    Stress management refers to a wide and varied spectrum of qualitative assessments, psychotherapies, biofeedback, and coping techniques that aim to recognize and manage stress for the purpose of improving everyday functioning. It seeks “psychological resilience-building” by making emotional and physical changes that reinforce greater adaptability to stressful situations.

    According to a 2021 study 1, stress management involves a myriad of techniques: “They typically include behaviors that improve physical health, such as nutrition and exercise, but may also incorporate strategies that improve cognitive and emotional functioning.”

    Recently, stress-reduction approaches based on mindfulness have been enjoying popularity with a variety of healthcare and epidemiological researchers. The most common stress management strategies include self-monitoring, tailoring, material reinforcement, social reinforcement, social support, self-contracting, contracting with significant others, shaping, reminders, etc.

    The World Health Organization concluded that psychological stress is one of the most significant health problems in the 21st-century and is a growing problem. A 2017 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) reported approximately 284 million people worldwide suffering from stress-related disorders. The 2021 State of the Global Workplace Report shows that stress levels remain higher than pre-pandemic levels, with work- and housing costs-related stress on the rise.

    Read More About Stress Here

    Need For Stress Management Strategies

    Stress is a common parcel of the fast-paced modern age. The causes of stress involve distinct, measurable “stressors” which include everyday instances of psychological pressure, emotional pain, and irritability, as well as life event-dimensions of loss, humiliation, trauma, neglect, disappointment, and danger.

    However, instances of untreated acute levels of stress majorly have negative psychological and physiological impacts on our health and well-being. These negative impacts include aggravations of pre-existing or comorbid conditions and range from alterations in homeostasis to life-threatening effects and death.

    Research 2 shows that the effects of stress get manifested physically, psychologically, emotionally, and behaviorally:

    1. Physical Effect

    The physical signs of stress result from hormonal and structural changes in a large number of organs in the human body. The common physical signs of stress include:

    • Cardiovascular diseases
    • Stomach ulcers
    • Fluctuations in weight
    • Changes in the menstrual cycle and libido
    • Frequent vulnerability to infections
    • Gastrointestinal complications
    • Fatigue
    • Malaise
    • Diminished appetite
    • Listlessness.

    Read More About Fatigue Here

    Severe stress can lead to malignancy by suppressing the immune system in diseases like cancer.

    2. Psychological Effect

    The negative effects of stress are reflected in memory and cognitive abilities. High concentration of stress, if untreated, causes structural and functional changes in the brain. It leads to:

    • Atrophy
    • Neurogenesis disorders
    • Declarative memory disorders
    • Behavioral, cognitive, and mood disorders
    • Mental disorders like depression, mania, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, etc.
    • Hampered learning and language abilities
    • Premature aging

    Read More About Bipolar Disorder Here

    3. Emotional Effect

    The common emotional signs of stress include:

    • Anger
    • Irritation
    • Alterations in moods
    • Lack of concentration
    • Frustration
    • Sleep deprivation

    Read More About Anger Here

    The more common signs of stress involve displays of hostile and volatile behavior that flaunt social etiquette and reveal poor self-care, increased reliance on intoxicants, sleep deprivation, etc.

    4. Social Effect

    Stress causes undesirable behavioral changes in the person suffering from it. This can include the following –

    • It induces people to display hostile and volatile behavior that flaunt social etiquette
    • Such behavior reveals poor communicative abilities, hapless language barriers, poor self-care, increased reliance on intoxicants, sleep deprivation, etc.
    • These behavioral changes impact reputation, social relationships (such as friendship, marriage, romantic relationships), professional relationships, and communal bonds

    Understanding Stress Management

    One 2020 study 3 says, “When faced with stressful events, people make autonomic and controlled efforts to reduce the negative impact and maximize the positive impact that every specific situation may provoke.” Such “natural” stress management strategies include self-regulation and/or emotional regulation, coping styles, or stress management techniques that enable the “mindful” management of all emotional stimuli and responses. These responses range from basic emotions and emotionally-charged responses to complex mood states in everyday life.

    Some people come with genetically predisposed and/or environmentally conditioned “mindfulness”. According to a 2021 study, individuals with greater capacity for mindfulness “tend to experience better physical health, report fewer physiological symptoms such as pain, and utilize fewer healthcare resources.”

    This “trait mindfulness” has also been associated with lesser susceptibility to anxiety and depression in both medical and non-medical populations. However, others more inclined to stressful stimuli should avail themselves of mindful-training interventions to maintain the allosteric load.

    Stress management techniques come with distinctive mechanisms. These can be availed in accordance to the convenience of the stressed.

    Read More About Anxiety Here

    Why Is It Important To Manage Stress?

    What are the 4As of Stress Management
    Stress Management

    Stress, if untreated, negatively impacts one’s quality of life. It causes severe physical and mental disorders. It can even lead to premature aging and early death. Therefore, it is important to manage stress through easily accessible and affordable stress management techniques.

    What Are The 4 As Of Stress Management?

    The 4 As of stress management includes:

    1. Avoid

    • Stressful situations
    • People who cause stress
    • Saying “yes” to responsibilities that can’t be fulfilled

    2. Alter

    • Access to people and situations that cause stress
    • Behavioral strategies
    • Communication methods to communicate more openly and impactfully
    • Prioritization lists
    • Schedules to maintain a healthy work-life balance
    • Social skills and develop more effective skills to manage time, work load, planning, conflicts, etc.

    3. Accept

    • Responsibilities for actions
    • Mistakes and learn from them
    • Communication with others
    • Normalizing positive self-talk
    • Normalizing forgiveness
    • Letting go of negative feelings, such as guilt, self-loathing, fear, etc.

    4. Adapt

    • To situations
    • To new schedules and priority lists
    • Standards and personal expectations
    • Practicing positive thoughts and actions
    • Reframing perspectives to address issues
    • Stress management strategies to manage stress

    Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Techniques

    Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Techniques
    Stress Management

    Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) models are used to teach attention-focusing and mindfulness skills via interventions. These skills present moment-focused, non-prejudiced awareness of the environs. MBSR typically entails an intensive 8-week intervention. These include:

    1. Cognitive Therapy (CT)

    Cognitive therapy (CT) is a type of psychotherapy that identifies and changes unhelpful or inaccurate thinking, problematic behavior, emotional distress, and stress responses. Many stress-management-based cognitive-behavioral treatments 4 are devised to combat anxiety sensitivity, low esteem, positive and negative affection and hope, performance anxiety, and associated mental health disorders such as depression, etc.

    A 2018 study 5 showed that stress-management-based cognitive-behavioral treatments yielded positive results for students suffering from anxiety sensitivity.

    These improved emotional issues which enhanced students’ thinking and prepared them to cope with class challenges. This gradually increased academic skills and, as a result, paved the way for more success in education.

    2. Autogenic Training

    Autogenic training is a desensitization-relaxation technique developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz. Using psycho-physiological strategies, the technique involves repetitions of a set of visualizations that induce a state of relaxation. It also induces self-suggestions that result in passive concentration of bodily perceptions (like heaviness and warmth of arms, legs, etc.).

    Research 6 shows that autogenic training is mostly used in alleviating many stress-induced anxiety and depression. It has found much use in wearable smart devices and biofeedback 7 for individualized real-life stress reduction interventions.

    3. Body Scan

    The body scan involves paying attention to momentary physical sensations beginning with the feet, going through various regions of the body, and ending at the head. Body scans can be availed individually or in a group. Research 8 shows that body scan is extremely effective in reducing stress in patients suffering from chronic pain 9 and veterans suffering from PTSD 10.

    Read More About Body Image Here

    4. Physical Exercise

    Physical exercise involves any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness. Exercising outdoors or indoors are frequently carried out in groups to facilitate socialization, group support, emotional resilience, and mental well-being 11.

    One 2014 study 12 states “regular exercisers are more resistant to the emotional effects of acute stress, which in turn, may protect them against diseases related to chronic stress burden.”

    5. Yoga For Stress Management

    Relaxation techniques involving deep breathing such as yoga 13, QiGong, Tai chi, and pranayama are often inculcated into training routines to induce relaxation, calmness, and strength. It also provides relief from stress, pain, anxiety, or anger. These techniques are often employed, individually or combined, in wider stress management programs and mind-body interventions 14 for the chronically ill.

    According to a 2011 study 15, yoga should be “considered as a complementary therapy or alternative method for medical therapy in the treatment of stress, anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.” It is also proven that yoga can create a greater sense of well-being, increase feelings of relaxation, improve self-confidence and body image, improve efficiency, better interpersonal relationships, increase attentiveness, lower irritability, as well as encourage an optimistic outlook on life.

    Read More About Anger Here

    6. Meditation

    Meditation is a practice in which a technique, such as mindfulness or focusing the mind 16, is used to induce attention and awareness and attain a stable state—physically, mentally, and emotionally.

    Meditation is practiced in a variety of cultures and hence, enjoys religious sanction. It is also applied to a number of non-spiritual contexts, such as business and health. Research shows that meditation has been significantly used for psychological well-being. It has been incorporated in multiple programs 17 and mind-body interventions. Meditation for stress management reduces stress, chronic pain, anxiety and depression.

    A 2012 study 18 validates the benefits of meditation in chronic neurological disorders such as Alzeihmer’s disease (AD) for patients, their caregivers, and their families and friends; in fact, the study shows that meditation reduces stress and improves the domains of sleep, mood, and memory.

    Another study from 2020 19 reveals that, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the preference and popularity of meditation skyrocketed—particularly during the prolonged periods of lockdown—to manage the pandemic-induced stress and trauma.

    Read More About Meditation Here

    7. Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

    Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a non-pharmacological method of deep muscle relaxation. Its techniques relieve muscle tension that is caused by the body’s psychological stress response and anxiety-provoking thoughts. Many 20 stress management programs and mind-body interventions use a combination of PMR, deep breathing techniques, and guided imagery to ensure psychological welfare.

    8. Massage

    Massage involves the manipulation of the body’s soft tissues to relieve stress or pain. Its techniques are commonly applied with hands, fingers, elbows, knees, forearms, feet, or a device. Research 21 shows that massage therapy is most effective in relieving occupational stress.

    A 2008 study 22 shows that massage therapy is most effective “at reducing physiological measures of stress, including hormonal (cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine) as well as physical (heart rate and blood pressure) variables”.

    Medication

    Sometimes stress management programs also involve medication. Many psychotherapies associated with stress-disorders and other disorders comprise drug therapy. One 2017 study 23 shows that chronic psychological stress is frequently subject to treatment with benzodiazepine, barbiturate, opioid and cannabinoid-based doctor-prescribed medicinal drugs.

    A number of traditional or “natural” medications exists parallely with other stress management techniques. These include:

    • Nootropics (dietary supplements and stimulants like caffeine, dimethylamylamine, methylphenidate, etc.)
    • Naturopathy and homeopathy
    • Aromatherapy
    • Complementary medicine or CM (like ayurveda or traditional chinese medicine)
    • Herbal tea (such as peppermint, chamomile, lavender, lemon balm, ginseng, turmeric passionflower, etc.)
    • Herbal drinks (such as tart cherry juice, coconut water, etc.)
    • Home remedies (such as hemp oil, adaptogens, etc.)

    These “alternative” medications 24 may be popular in everyday practice, but they lack biological and medical plausibility. They are also frequently disregarded as pseudoscience or folk medicine. These should be consumed with discretion 25, with professional medical advice.

    Skill Development

    Skill Development in Stress Management
    Stress Management

    In clinical practice, stress-related interventions also feature skill development. Such skill development enhances an individual’s adaptation to the various stressful situations, feelings of self-efficacy 26, and empowerment in the face of challenges and responsibilities 27.

    Life skills training also has considerable effect on mental health parameters—ensuring greater success in life, a richer psychological well-being, and lesser susceptibility to mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, etc.

    Research 28 shows that skill development has been incorporated in curriculums and workshops 29 in multiple professional and learning fields to ensure psychological well-being. These include:

    • Conflict resolution
    • Time management
    • Planning
    • Peacebuilding
    • Decision making
    • Diplomacy

    Read More About Time Management Here

    Self-help Activities

    Self help strategies and coping techniques in Stress Management
    Stress Management

    A number of self-help, leisurely 30, and social activities 31 can also be practiced for managing stress, such as –

    • Developing a hobby
    • Walking
    • Spending time in nature
    • Spending time with friends, family, pets, etc.
    • Journaling
    • Reading
    • Listening to music
    • Creating art
    • Using stress balls

    Benefits Of Stress Management

    Availing stress management techniques can lead to number of benefits which include the following –

    • Maintenance of psychological well-being
    • Development of life-skills
    • Management of volatile behavior comprising anger, mood swings, frustration, etc.
    • Enhancement of psychological resilience
    • Exercise of mindfulness, peace, empathy, and confidence
    • Development of sharper survival strategies in challenging and stressful situations
    • A happy, fulfilling, and healthy life in the long run

    Takeaway

    Stress is a large parcel of the fast-paced modern age. If untreated, it can lead to severe physiological and psychological disabilities and provide deterrence to a happy and fulfilling life. Stress management strategies—comprising a myriad of medical and self-help techniques—should be availed so as to improve well-being for everyday mindful functioning.

    Stress Management At A Glance

    1. Stress management refers to a varied spectrum of qualitative assessments, psychotherapies, biofeedback, and coping techniques aimed at managing stress.
    2. It seeks “psychological resilience-building” by making emotional and physical changes for greater plasticity.
    3. Untreated stress causes negative psychological and physiological impacts on human health and well-being.
    4. Each stress management intervention comes with distinctive mechanisms and can be availed in accordance to the convenience of the stressed.
    5. Stress management strategies include therapy, breathing and physical exercises, body-scan, massages, medication, self-help coping strategies etc.
    6. Availing stress management techniques ensures a person’s physiological and psychological well-being.

    Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs)

    What are the 4 types of stressors?

    The four common types of stressors involve time stress, anticipatory stress, situational stress, and encounter stress. The common causes of stress include: psychological pressure, emotional pain, irritability, loss, humiliation, trauma, etc.

    How can I avoid stress?

    To avoid stress, one should adhere to the “4 As” of stress management: Avoid, Alter, Accept and Adapt.

    How do I manage stress at work?

    Stress at work can be managed by different stress management techniques. Having a healthy approach towards work, developing social skills, setting deadlines, and being communicative help manage stress at work.

    How do I manage stress and anxiety?

    Stress and related anxiety and depression can be managed with different types of stress management strategies like cognitive therapy, exercise, meditation, body scan, social skill development, and self-help strategies (developing hobbies, journaling, reading, etc.).

    How does exercise best help manage stress, anxiety, and depression?

    Exercise improves body movements and psychological resilience. It also helps facilitate socialization and group support for combating stress and maintaining mental well-being.

    Is stress positive or negative?

    Stress can be positive or negative depending on your situation. Mild amounts of stress caused by positive stressors (such as family events, holidays, etc.) boost creativity and productivity. But, severe stress caused by negative stressors (like grief, trauma, etc.) for a long period of time is harmful.

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