What Is Stress Management?
Our increasingly busy lives cause our minds a lot of stress. Stress is mental tension caused by demanding, taxing or burdensome circumstances. Stress doesn't just affect our mental state and mood; it affects our physical health as well. When we are very stressed, a hormone called cortisol is released into our bloodstream, suppressing the functioning of our immune, digestive and reproductive systems. That is why it is so important to practice stress management in order to keep our minds and bodies healthy.
Stress management consists of making changes to your life if you are in a constant stressful situation, preventing stress by practicing self-care and relaxation and managing your response to stressful situations when they do occur.
Before we move on to stress management techniques, it's important to note that not all stress is bad. Stress is actually a survival response when our body thinks that it is in danger. That is why our sympathetic nervous system kicks in and makes our heart rate increase and gives us a burst of the energy hormone, adrenaline, so that we can deal with whatever situation is being thrown at us. This is also called our flight or fight response.
The problem is when we deal with constant stress and worry, or when we don't know how to properly manage a stressful situation. That's why stress management is tremendously important for our health, quality of life and relationships.
Benefits of Stress Management
It has already been said that stress causes mental and physical strain, tension and even illness. It can affect all areas of our lives. Some examples of health problems stress can cause include:
This diagram below also shows ways that stress affects different aspects of our selves:
Stress management is beneficial to reduce blood pressure, heart disease, digestive troubles and many more physical ailments. It also helps improve sleep, mental health, cognition and libido. There are simply too many benefits to list them all. It is clear to see why stress management is so important. Now, let's learn some stress management tips.
Change the Stressful Situation
The first thing that you need to consider when encountering a short- or long-term stressful situation is, 'Can I change the situation so that it does not cause me stress anymore?' If it's a person in your life that is constantly negative and critical of you, can you distance yourself from that person? If it is a job that you are doing, can you start making moves to look for a new job or obtain a different position? There is a quote by a famous spiritual leader, Eckhart Tolle, that says, 'When you complain, you make yourself the victim. Leave the situation, change the situation or accept it. All else is madness.'
Stress Management Techniques
There are many ways to reduce stress in your life, from exercise to journaling to meditation. Let's look at some of the most common forms of stress management, including physical, mental, social, intellectual and environmental techniques.
There are various physical techniques you can use. One of these is yoga. There are many videos for this exercise involving body stretching and strengthening online. You can begin your day with 15 minutes of yoga to let go of tension in your body and to clear your mind.
A morning jog or other forms of cardiovascular exercise can help with releasing the happy hormones, endorphins, into your system and can help prevent feelings of stress throughout the day.
Progressive muscle relaxation is another option. This involves starting with your toes and moving all the way up to your forehead, tensing one body part for five to ten seconds and then releasing or relaxing.
You can also improve your nutrition to help manage stress. Cortisol, the hormone released when stressed, causes people to crave sugars and high carb foods. High sugar in the body can cause mood swings and energy crashes after the high. Diets rich in vitamins with vegetables and fruits can regulate hormones, mood and stress levels. Getting enough of the B vitamin complex can help people feel energized, which also reduces stress.
Finally, getting a massage can relieve muscle tension caused by stress, while getting enough sleep gives the body enough time to repair and rejuvenate every night.
Let's now look at some mental techniques to manage stress. The first of these is meditation. This requires that you practice a state of 'no mind,' or a state of mind without or with minimal thinking. It is helpful to sit in a comfortable position, perhaps cross-legged and bring your focus to your breath, to a repeated phrase, i.e., 'I am relaxed.'
Guided imagery is another technique. Close your eyes and think about all of the details, specifically regarding the five senses, of one of your favorite relaxing places like a beach, the mountains or a forest, and imagine that you are there.
You can also use deep breathing. Take two counts of breath in through your nose and two counts out through your mouth. Focus on your breathing while doing so.
It's also helpful to be completely present. Take your mind off guilt and regret of the past, as well as worry and anxiety about the future. Take in the sights, smells, sounds and beauty in your current environment like you have never experienced it before.
The last mental technique is to listen to relaxing music to put your mind at a state of ease.
There are a couple social techniques to try, including socialization and laughter. Talking with family and friends can provide a source of support, validation and laughter. Laughter, on the other hand, can release feel-good neurotransmitters, like endorphins, in the brain. It also causes oxygen to release into your system and saturate your organs. Laughing also raises your blood pressure, but only temporarily, then quickly goes back down, creating a feeling of deep relaxation and satisfaction.
Two intellectual techniques are creative activities or hobbies and journaling. Immersing yourself in a creative pursuit or hobby can take your mind off worries and raise self-esteem. On the other hand, journaling allows you to take your stress and unspoken feelings to paper before you go to sleep at night.
Finally, try some environmental techniques to manage your stress, such as using counseling or support groups and doing volunteer work. Counseling or support groups provide opportunities for speaking with someone who understands your worries and are a healthy way to reduce stress. Volunteer work allows you to help others who are disadvantaged or in need. This can put your own problems into perspective, thus reducing your own stress.
As you can see, there are plenty of stress management methods that can reduce stress, anxiety and tension in one's life.
Let's review. Stress is mental tension caused by demanding, taxing or burdensome circumstances. When not properly managed, stress can lead to various health problems, including heart disease, depression, breathing problems and diabetes. Stress management consists of making changes to your life if you are in a constant stressful situation, preventing stress by practicing self-care and relaxation and managing your response to stressful situations when they do occur. Stress management can help lower blood pressure and physical illness and improve cognition. There are many stress management techniques to try, including physical, mental, social, intellectual and environmental techniques. Some of these include yoga, healthy eating, exercise, massage, meditation, deep breathing, hobbies, socialization, journaling, volunteer work and counseling groups.
After this lesson, you should be ready to complete the following tasks:
- Define stress and recall its harmful effects on the body
- Explain what stress management is and its benefits
- Describe several stress management techniques
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Prompts About Stress Management:
Essay Prompt 1:
In approximately three to four paragraphs, write an essay that defines stress and explains the differences between good and bad stress.
Example: When stressed, the body produces more of the hormone cortisol.
Essay Prompt 2:
Write an essay of approximately one to two pages that details the social, intellectual, and environmental aspects of stress management.
Example: The social technique of laughter releases chemicals in the brain that cause you to feel more at ease or happier.
List Prompt 1:
Make a list of at least ten ways that stress can negatively affect a person's physical health. You can refer to the charts provided in the lesson, but try to recall as many from memory as you can.
Example: Stress can worsen allergies.
List Prompt 2:
Make a list of fifteen ways stress can negatively impact a person's mind, behavior, and emotions. You should have five impacts for each category. You can refer to the chart provided in the lesson, but try to recall as many from memory as you can.
Example: Impaired judgment (mind).
Graphic Organizer Prompt 1:
Make a chart, poster, or some other type of graphic organizer that lists and describes physical stress management techniques.
Example: You could draw a person in a yoga pose.
Graphic Organizer Prompt 2:
Create a poster, chart, or some other type of graphic organizer that lists and describes mental stress management techniques.
Example: Guided imagery.
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