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Stress Management

Stress management, coping techniques, who it is for, and how it can help.


What Is Stress?

Stress is a normal, natural and evolutionary human reaction to external or internal stimuli, such as changes to routine or challenges in life in general. The term stress can refer to a response that is physical, mental, emotional or a combination of the three.

What Are the Common Signs of Stress?

Stress affects everyone differently. While some people may feel it physically through things like a racing heart or nausea, another may feel it emotionally by feeling overwhelmed and short tempered toward those around them.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Racing heart or high blood pressure
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Gastrointestinal issues (nausea or diarrhea)
  • Reduced libido or sexual inability
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
What Happens to Your Body When You’re Stressed?

When you face a difficult situation, it is your body’s natural response to release a combination of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which help prepare your body for danger, signaling a “fight or flight” response. This can stimulate a variety of physical, mental and emotional reactions.

Exactly how these chemicals affect your body is highly individualized, but some common reactions may include racing heart, digestive troubles, high blood pressure, shaking or weakness, difficulty breathing and more.

How Does Stress Affect You Emotionally?

Stress can definitely have an affect on your emotional health and stabilitility. Initially, as your body prepares you for emergency action, you may enter into a state of “fight or flight” and may be unable to see or focus beyond the immediate needs of yourself or others.

As you begin to move past this point, you often become exceedingly tired and irritable, which is a normal reaction to help you recover from such a high level of stress. In these moments, you might experience a similar difficulty relating to others or caring for yourself.

In the long term, the reaction to the stressful situation, as well as your recovery from it, may cause generalized emotional instability and dissatisfaction.

When Does Stress Become Too Much?

While stress itself is not a bad thing, it can become a problem if you have trouble controlling your reaction to stressful situations or if you experience a great deal of constant or recurring stress. Both of these might signal to you that you would benefit from counseling to help you manage your stress.

It is completely appropriate for anyone to reach out to a licensed therapist at any point in their life if they feel that they need help managing their stress. Everyone deals with stress at different times and with varying degrees of success, and it is a very common component of most talk therapy sessions.

How Can I Avoid Stress?

Stress is an important phenomenon that was developed to help us adapt to change, keep us alert and/or motivated and, ultimately, safe. In modern times, the word stress is often used negatively to refer to pressure, exceedingly difficult or unsustainable situations and states of mind.

While this can be true, stress can also refer to a more positive reaction to stimuli. For example, if you complete a new or particularly challenging exercise, then you have just stressed your body. Resting and allowing your body to adapt to that new stress will ultimately make you stronger.

In the same way, you should not seek to avoid stress altogether, but rather you should focus on prioritizing your physical, mental and emotional recovery. While stress cannot be avoided, it can be managed in this way.

Managing Stress

What Is Stress Management?

Stress management refers to techniques that you can use to reduce the intensity of stress in moments of difficulty and/or to reduce the amount or frequency of stress within your life on a long term basis.

Stress management can include lifestyle changes as simple as following a healthy diet and exercise routine, as well as specific stress management methods such as breathing techniques, meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy.

What Are Common Stress Management Techniques?

Stress management techniques can be broken down into two categories: acute and long term. Some techniques may fall under both categories.

Acute stress management:

  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Remove yourself from stressful situations (when possible)
  • The 333 rule (more info below)

Long term stress management:

  • Maintaining a healthy diet
  • Establishing an exercise routine
  • Prioritizing sleep/rest
  • Avoiding alcohol, caffeine and other substances
  • Making time for hobbies
  • Talking to someone about your stressful situation
  • Setting limits

Due to the variety of techniques, it is encouraged that you take your time to experiment with a few to find what works best for you. But it is also important that you give each technique the time and space to begin to benefit you by establishing a routine and being patient for the results to take affect.

What Is the 333 Rule?

The 333 rule refers to a stress management technique that is highly effective in helping individuals manage moments of feeling overwhelmed or generalized anxiety. It is an easy and effective exercise to help you ground yourself in your environment and gain control over the situation.

  • Sight: Name on three things that you can see.
  • Sound: Name three things that you can hear.
  • Touch: Name three things that you can feel.

While some people misunderstand the exercise to think it is a means to distract yourself, the opposite is actually true. It is a technique to help you ground yourself in your immediate environment. By paying attention to what is around you, you can help calm yourself down and remind your active brain that you are not in immediate danger and that it is ok to relax.

How Can I Naturally Reduce Anxiety?

Anxiety refers to a reaction to a situation or environment that may not warrant the level or type of reaction that it is receiving. In these cases, the same techniques can be applied, but an additional resource is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

CBT refers to a type of reframing in which you learn to take a step back from the situation in order to evaluate it more objectively in order to determine the proper response to it. In cases of anxiety, CBT can help you better understand the root of your stressor, as well as next steps to overcome the challenge and return to a state of acceptance and ultimately relaxation.