Definition & Overview
Stress management refers to the treatment and long-term management of stress to prevent or reduce its potential risks to a person’s health. Stress is a state caused by the body’s physical and psychological response to challenges and demands brought about by daily life. When a person is under stress, the body is naturally programmed to release hormones that cause the heart to speed up, with the purpose of giving the individual more energy to handle the difficult situation. This is called the fight-or-flight stress response. Once the difficult situation has passed, the body should return to a normal relaxed state. Unfortunately, this does not happen for many individuals who constantly face challenging situations.
While the body’s response to stress is useful in enabling a person to deal with difficult circumstances, complete certain tasks, or achieve some goals, excessive, frequent, or prolonged stress can weaken the immune system, trigger negative health symptoms, or worsen existing health conditions. It can also have an emotional and social effect, which can affect practically all aspects of a person’s life.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
The procedure is for individuals who feel that they are constantly under stress and unable to return to a normal relaxed state, causing the body to remain on high alert. This means that the heart is constantly pumping faster, which may lead to serious health problems unless controlled or managed properly.
Stress management is also crucial for those who are experiencing unexplained symptoms potentially due to the body’s constant state of stress. Statistics show that as much as 40% of all adults suffer negative health effects due to stress and that up to 75% of all visits to the doctor’s office are stress-related. Stress is also a contributing factor to many of the worst health problems that plague a lot of people all over the world including high blood pressure, heart disease, skin conditions, ulcers, asthma, and depression. Stress is also a common trigger for heart attacks. Chronic and untreated stress also increases a person’s risk of developing an emotional disorder by more than 50%.
Some of the common symptoms often linked with stress, along with their occurrence rating, are:
- Fatigue (51%)
- Headaches and migraines (44%)
- Upset stomach (34%)
- Back pain or muscle tension (30%)
- Lack of appetite (23%)
- Teeth grinding (17%)
- Lack of sex drive (15%)
- Dizziness (13%)
Stress can also trigger psychological symptoms, such as:
- Irritability (50%)
- Insomnia or trouble sleeping (48%)
- Nervousness (45%)
- Lack of energy (45%)
It can also have negative consequences on a person’s life, such as:
- Difficulty balancing work and family
- Relationship problems
- Divorce or separation from spouse
Stress management is also part of the medical treatment received by patients who suffer from traumatic experiences. This type of stress is diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder, which commonly affects individuals who experienced major accidents, have been in a war or survived a natural disaster.
The goal of stress management is to help a person return to a normal relaxed state despite the constant challenges that he experiences in life. It trains a person in identifying stress triggers, monitoring his stress level, and using different techniques to reset the body’s built-in alarm system.
Successful stress management techniques can help a person deal with negative situations better, reduce negative health symptoms and problems, and improve a person’s overall health and quality of life.
How is the Procedure Performed?
Stress management involves several steps, some of which may require a long process for some people. These steps include:
- Determining stressors, or the causes of stress, such as a difficult job, financial responsibilities, overwhelming tasks, relationship problems, or negative experiences
- Monitoring or tracking stress levels
- Evaluating the patient’s way of responding to stress
- Practising techniques to relieve stress
Practising techniques to cope with situations better to avoid stress
Some of the techniques that psychologists prescribe to patients who are receiving stress management therapy include:
Learning how to manage time better
- Getting enough rest
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a healthy diet even in stressful situations
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Refraining from smoking
- Trying out different activities or hobbies, such as baking, gardening, crafts, and painting
- Playing with a pet
- Doing charitable volunteer work
- Engaging in sports
- Listening to calming music
- Joining a support group
- Using relaxation techniques, such as:
- Muscle relaxation exercises
- Tai Chi
- Imagery exercises
Patients who have a problem with stress are also encouraged to find someone to talk to with regards to the challenges they are facing. This could be a family member, a friend, or even a psychiatrist. Being able to talk about negative situations and emotions allow a person to release some of their stress.
Possible Risks and Complications
Stress management in itself is an important part of ensuring patients’ health and protecting them from all of the potential dangers of stress. However, there are some risks and challenges in the path towards healthy stress management.
For one, patients who have been dealing with constant stress for a long time sometimes have difficulty overcoming it. Thus, the process of managing it may be long and hard for some people. The success of the process depends heavily on the patient’s commitment and determination to overcome stress and change his situation.
Furthermore, people tend to manage stress differently. For some people, stress triggers negative habits or lifestyle changes. The risk of ineffective and inappropriate stress management lies in using negative coping strategies, such as smoking, binge eating and drinking, using recreational drugs, or social withdrawal. Stress has also been linked with alcohol and drug overdose. These unhealthy coping mechanisms can cause more serious health problems and have a more detrimental effect on a person’s quality of life.
Thus, it is crucial for a person suffering from stress to seek proper stress management, preferably with the assistance of medical professionals to overcome stress the healthy way.
“Stress and well-being in Australia survey 2014”. Australian Psychological Society. https://www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/2014-APS-NPW-Survey-WEB-reduced.pdf
“Work-related stress, anxiety and depression statistics in Great Britain 2014/15.” Health and Safety Executive. http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress/